DeSantis greenlights Phase Two as Florida reopens amid COVID-19 crisis

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave bars, movie theaters and bowling alleys the OK to reopen this coming Friday as Florida moves into Phase Two of its reopening plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday at Universal Orlando Resort that 64 of Florida’s 67 counties will move into Phase Two of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That reopening plan includes Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.

DeSantis said bars and pubs can operate at full capacity outside and 50 percent capacity inside as long as social distancing and sanitization rules are being followed. Those customers must be seated to receive service. And restaurants, which currently are operating at 50 percent capacity, will once again be able to offer bar-top seating.
“People go, enjoy, have a drink. It’s fine,” the governor said. “We want to kind of not have huge crowds piling in.”

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Under Phase Two, bowling alleys, movie theaters, arcades and auditoriums can reopen at 50 percent capacity. Many Villagers are particularly fond of spending time at Spanish Springs Lanes and Fiesta Bowl and have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to begin bowling in leagues and with friends and neighbors again. Many area residents also have expressed similar sentiments about seeing movies again at the Rialto Theatre in Spanish Springs, the Old Mill Playhouse in Lake Sumter Landing and the Barnstorm Theater in Brownwood, though it wasn’t clear Wednesday night exactly when those facilities might reopen for business.

It also was unclear Wednesday when entertainment on Villages town squares might resume. Workers were spotted Tuesday morning working in the bar huts at Lake Sumter Landing but they claimed they were just cleaning and sanitizing those buildings, which have been closed since mid-March when The Villages first pulled the plug on town square entertainment.

Under Phase Two, retail shops – another popular draw in The Villages – will be able to operate at full capacity, as will gyms and health clubs. “Personal” services such as massage and tanning salons, as well as tattoo parlors, also can resume seeing customers. All of those business, however, will be required to continue practicing social distancing and strict sanitizing measures.

DeSantis announced the move to Phase Two at Universal Orlando Resort, which had just opened to passholders and will reopen to the public on Friday. He said the Phase Two plan affects 64 Florida counties, which includes Sumter, Lake and Marion. The three counties that haven’t been given the greenlight to move into Phase Two – Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – are home to 54.1 percent of the 58,764 COVID-19 cases reported in Florida. Leaders from those counties will be required to submit plans of how they’ll make Phase Two work before being allowed to move forward and join the other counties along the reopening path.

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