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Recent Executive Orders and Local Announcements Regarding Business Closures and Openings

Recent Executive Orders and Local Announcements Regarding Business Closures and Openings
There have been multiple orders in the State of Florida and Pinellas County providing that certain non-essential businesses must close during the coronavirus pandemic. However, with State of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announcing that Florida will start lifting stay-at-home orders, many local businesses are questioning whether they can now open their doors for business. Indeed, on April 29, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order # 2020-112 – Phase One. Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery. This article will review the sections of Executive Order 20-112: Phase 1 which apply to business closures, business openings, business restrictions, and other related issues. This article will also review Pinellas County’s recent press announcement related to business closures, openings and restrictions.

Executive Order 2020-112: Phase One

“Executive Order # 2020-112 – Phase One. Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery.” goes into effect on May 4, 2020. In pertinent part, Executive Order 20-112 sets forth the following restrictions for businesses as addressed by previous Executive Orders:
  1. Bars, pubs and nightclubs that derive more than fifty percent of gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages shall continue to suspend the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  2. Restaurants and food establishments licensed may allow on-premises consumption of food and beverage, so long as they adopt appropriate social distancing measures and limit their indoor occupancy to no more than 25 percent of their building occupancy. The Executive Order further provides that outdoor seating is permissible with appropriate social distancing. Appropriate social distancing requires maintaining a minimum of six feet between parties, only seating parties of ten or fewer people and keeping bar counters closed to seating.
  3. Gyms and fitness centers shall remain closed.
  4. The prohibition on vacation rentals still remains in effect.

Executive Order 20-112 also sets forth the following procedures applicable to other business services affected by previous Executive Orders:

  1. In-store retail sales establishments may open storefronts if they operate at no more than twenty five percent of their building occupancy and abide by the safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  2. Museums and libraries may open at no more than twenty-five percent of their building occupancy provided that local public museums and local public libraries may operate only if permitted by local government, and any components of museums or libraries that have interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, remain closed.
Executive Order 20-112 further provides that hospital ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental offices, orthodontic offices, endodontic offices or other health care practitioners’ offices may perform the elective procedures which were previously prohibited by Executive Order 20-72; however, these electric procedures may resume only if:
  1. The facility has the capacity to immediately convert additional facility-identified surgical and intensive care beds for treatment of COVID-19 patients in a surge capacity situation;
  2. The facility has adequate personal protective equipment to complete all medical procedures and respond to COVID-19 treatment needs, without the facility seeking any additional federal or state assistance regarding personal protective equipment supplies;
  3. The facility has not sought any additional federal, state, or local government assistance regarding personal protective equipment supplies since resuming elective procedures; and
  4. The facility has not refused to provide support to and proactively engage with skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and other long-term care residential provider.
Executive Order 20-112 also provides that while all persons in the State of Florida shall continue to limit their personal interactions outside their home, persons may provide or obtain all services and activities which are currently allowed (for instance, those that are included as activities set forth in Executive Order 20-91). However, those persons shall continue to follow safety guidelines issued by the CDC and OSHA. The Executive Order states that violations of this Executive Order amount to a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment not to exceed sixty days, a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars, or both.

Pinellas County Announcements

Pinellas County has further elaborated on certain businesses which may open and must remain closed in Pinellas County Florida. On May 1, 2020, Pinellas County gave a press release announcing that the following activities and businesses pose a higher risk of transmission and thus will remain prohibited or closed during Phase 1:
  1. Concerts;
  2. Music halls;
  3. Bars;
  4. Pubs;
  5. Nightclubs;
  6. Gyms;
  7. Dance studios;
  8. Yoga studios;
  9. Amusement parks;
  10. Waterparks;
  11. Vacation rentals; and
  12. personal services such as haircuts (which would include barbershops, hair spas, and hair salons);
  13. personal services such as nail salons.

On May 1, 2020, Pinellas County also announced the following:

  1. Restaurants and food establishments may reopen dining areas with a maximum patron occupancy of twenty-five percent of the building capacity. Outdoor seating is allowed without capacity percentage limitations. Bar counter seating must remain closed.
  2. Many other nonessential retail businesses that have been closed to foot traffic may resume at limited capacity using social distancing principles.
  3. In-store activities can resume to a maximum of twenty-five percent patron occupancy of the building capacity.
  4. Pet grooming and car washes are specifically among the businesses that may operate starting Monday, May 4, 2020.
  5. The County’s guidance strongly encourages residents to wear masks at indoor businesses like grocery and retail stores.
  6. Museums and libraries may reopen to a patron occupancy of twenty-five percent of the stated building capacity, but interactive functions and exhibits and child play areas must stay closed. Cities may decide to keep museums and libraries closed.
  7. Curbside pickup and delivery by businesses is allowed.

Ensure Compliance

More orders will likely follow. It is important that businesses ensure compliance with the Governor’s Executive Orders and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners’ Orders. Businesses who do not comply with these Orders can face an order to close. Violators can also face criminal fines or penalties. The employment law attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. hope that you remain healthy and safe during these difficult times. If you are in need of legal assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

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