Future of bars and breweries still uncertain on the Suncoast

Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 10:40 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Just weeks after bars were allowed to reopen back in June, a state executive order shut them down for a second time. Since then, there have been some changes to that rule. Now, any bar, brewery or nightclub with a kitchen, can operate like a restaurant. However, many bars and breweries on the Suncoast are still struggling. Some fear they'll have to give up their business altogether

“We are completely alone in as far as knowing what to expect, and how long we’ll be forced to shut down. I understand that it’s because of this pandemic, but when I’m at a restaurant in downtown Sarasota, I walk up to the bar and have a drink just like everyone else. Pretty much nothing else has changed. I’m listening to a live band. Meanwhile, I’m watching everything I’ve worked for for the last decade, be destroyed by a policy,” expressed Jeremy Joerger, the owner of JDubs Brewery.

Joerger tells us that since March 13th, bars, breweries and nightclubs like his have been struggling to survive as the shutdown has continued dragging on. In fact, he says he even had to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy a few months ago.

“We’ve been down 75% in sales for five and a half months, so we’re just scrambling to find the money to get through this, survive this. If the taproom and bar was allowed to be open – responsibly – we’d be okay. Even at a fraction of our sales,” explained Joerger.

Lawyers across the state have gone to court challenging these forced closures, but so far, Florida attorneys are telling us that all the judges that have held hearings are siding with the restrictions.

“The courts are saying that the state has a right to limit commercial activity when public health is at risk, and that the restriction only has to be partially related to the public health need. What they are basically saying is that operating a bar is not a public right, nor that a bar is protect classes,” said Dawn Meyers, an attorney for Berger Singerman Law Firm.

Now, it’ll just depend on the state when places like JDubs Brewery will look like this again.

“There’s a safe way to do it, and I would love to be part of that solution and that implementation,” Joerger.

The Secretary for The Department of Business and Professional Regulation said this week, though, that he is taking comments and suggestions from bar and brewery owners across the state in hopes of finding a way for them to re-open soon.

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