MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Despite the entire state entering Phase 2 of reopening, most bars and nightclubs in South Florida remain shut down. It’s why local bar owners and staff protested in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday.
Many bartenders and waitresses have been without a paycheck now for three months.
At the Elbo Room on Fort Lauderdale Beach, the doors have been closed since St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s been a long time,” said bartender Randy “Lauderdale,” who joined the crowd of out of work bar staff and owners Tuesday
All of them demanded the reopening of bars that have been ordered shut down since the pandemic hit.
“I’ve got two kids. What am I going to do? All these people, they want to eat. That’s all they are here for. They want to feed their families. We have families. We have kids. We work at the greatest bar in the world. All we want to do is go back to work,” Randy said.
Florida’s Phase 2 reopening included bars, but South Florida mayors have opted to keep bars closed. The mayors are concerned it could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.
“We understood the first month. We were given 30 days. And then it turns into more time. More time. More time,” said Michelle Penrod, the owner of the Elbo Room.
It’s been 92 days and counting, with no end in sight.
“It’s really not fair that other restaurants, and you drive down some of these streets, and they are so packed, and they have turned into bars,” Penrod said.
You do not have to look far to see what she means.
Restaurants on Fort Lauderdale Beach are busy serving drinks.
Many bar owners have tried getting creative, offering to serve food, using parking lots and taking temperatures.
But the city of Fort Lauderdale is refusing all of it.
“They have completely refused any kind of compromise,” said Lit Bar owner Julie Kolodziej. “All we are trying to do is save our business.”
But can a typically packed bar socially distance?
“Of course. Absolutely,” said Penrod.
Skeptics may feel differently.
Regardless, open or not, there is a price to pay.
“I’m at wits end. I want to see something. The country is being torn in so many directions right now. You want to help everyone, but right now I’m just worried about helping our staff. They can’t pay rent. They can eat. They can’t do this. How much longer can we take?” said Matt Colunga of Johnsons Fort Lauderdale in Wilton Manors.
The decision for bars to reopen lies with the mayors at this point.
So far they have not given an indication of when they would allow for it.
The bar owners CBS4’s David Sutta spoke with said they plan to continue to obey the law. But some may not be able to last much longer without income.