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Treasure Coast bars hoping to reopen to serving customers in 'phase two' of the governor's re-opening plan

“It really is confusing.”
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Posted at 12:06 AM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 00:27:49-04

STUART, Fla. — While Palm Beach County is still waiting to re-open under the first phase of the governor’s plan, some businesses on the Treasure Coast want to know when they, too, will be allowed to take the next step.

Bars and pubs are hopeful to soon be able to follow the same re-opening rules as restaurants.

Since Monday, restaurants have been able to serve food and alcohol in their businesses, but neighboring bars are still ordered to be closed.

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It’s the same conflict bar owners say they experienced when they were initially told to close weeks ago.

Wednesday evening, streets and sidewalks were busier in downtown Stuart now that restaurants are serving meals and drinks on-site, not just to-go.

Vine and Barley owner Mark Carbone has watched the foot traffic increase.

“You look out my window here and there are constant cars coming through downtown Stuart. There are constant people,” Carbone said.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ phase one reopening plan lets restaurants serve food and alcohol inside their businesses at 25% capacity.

It’s a slow, cautious start, but an option not yet available to bars even though Carbone says his bar can take the same precautions as restaurants.

“It really is confusing,” Carbone said.

He had the same frustration when COVID-19 was just becoming a concern and businesses started shutting down. He was forced to stop serving beer and wine, his main source of income, while restaurants were still allowed to serve alcohol and remain open for several more days.

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He said he misses out on an average of at least $1000 per day he is closed.

"It’s very frustrating to look out the window and see hundreds of people walking around and I can’t sell them anything. I can look across the street or down the street and see them sitting there at tables buying beers, buying wine, and I can’t do it,” Carbone said.

The Re-Open Florida Task Force has suggested the governor start to reopen bars in phase two, limiting capacity to 50%, prioritizing outside service, and diminishing standing room.

Carbone is making sure his business is ready to open as soon as they get the green light.

Other local Martin County bars have started a Facebook group, open to the public, to hear ideas about additional safety measures they take in their bars to make patrons feel comfortable returning to their businesses.