PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County leaders are asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow the county to join "Phase Two" of Florida's reopening plan, which would allow bars, movie theaters, and more businesses to reopen.
Mayor Dave Kerner and County Administrator Verdenia Baker sent a letter to DeSantis on Friday, asking for Palm Beach County to enter "Phase Two" with restrictions.
BREAKING: Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner’s letter to the Governor is requesting to join Phase 2, but delay the opening of bars for a limited period of time. Letter says county wants to approve plans for reopening entertainment businesses. @WPTV pic.twitter.com/QcSWfyTleE— Michelle Quesada (@M_Quesada) June 5, 2020
"Palm Beach County is ready to go into 'Phase Two,'" Kerner said at a news conference on Friday afternoon. "But we want to do it with some particular carve outs that are necessary for the unique nature of Palm Beach County."
Under the proposed restrictions, standalone bars that only serve alcohol, not food, would not be allowed to reopen.
"In Palm Beach County, we're not prepared to have standalone bars open just yet," said Kerner.
Kerner added that county leaders are concerned about people consuming alcohol at those bars, then going out and joining protests that are happening in the wake of the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
According to Commissioner Hal Valeche, Palm Beach County officials would only allow bars that are inside restaurants to reopen.
However, only people who are sitting down, not standing, would be allowed to be served alcohol. In addition, customers would have to abide by social distancing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Valeche said that under Palm Beach County's plan, entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys could reopen. However, those businesses would have to submit a plan to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Department of Health about how they would reopen safely.
64 counties in Florida, excluding Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, officially entered "Phase Two" on Friday.
Under the new reopening guidelines:
- Restaurants may allow bar-top seating with appropriate social distancing
- Bars and pubs may operate at 50% capacity inside and full capacity outside with appropriate social distancing
- Retail stores may operate at full capacity
- Gyms and fitness centers may operate at full capacity
- Entertainment venues like movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades may operate at 50% capacity
- Personal services business like tattoo parlors, acupuncture establishments, tanning salons and massage establishments may operate while adhering to the Florida Department of Health
- Pari-mutuel facilities which offer gambling may submit a request to open to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation
Earlier this week, DeSantis said the three South Florida counties can submit a plan to the state for approval to enter "Phase Two."
"We'll work with the three southeast Florida counties to see how they're developing and whether they want to move into 'Phase Two,'" DeSantis said. "They're on a little bit different schedule."
At Friday's news conference, Kerner acknowledged there's been an increase in COVID-19 infections in Palm Beach County, primarily among residents between the ages of 35 and 45.
In addition, Kerner said that at its lowest point, the county's positivity rate for COVID-19 was around 4.34%. It's now 6.15%, an increase of almost 50%.
"Some of this is anticipated," said Kerner. "When we open up the economy, there will be that younger generation going out into the economy and spending money and trying to revert back to a somewhat normal way of life."