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Bars in Florida reopen at half capacity

One wine bar in St. Augustine will reopen for the first time since June.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla — Bars in Florida are able to reopen Monday, with some restrictions.

To say Jessica Harrison and Tony Porcellini are happy about reopening their wine bar is an understatement.

"Finally and hopefully it stays that way," Harrison said. 

Porcellini agreed, "Right!"

They’re co-owners of the Carrera Wine Cellar in St. Augustine.

They haven’t poured the good stuff inside their business since the state shut bars down. The first time was St. Patricks Day. Bars reopened in June, but the state shut them down again that same month. No bellying up to the bar meant business was nearly belly up.

Porcellini said, "We were down over 70 percent a month."

There are restrictions with the reopening.

Bars in Florida can only operate at 50 percent capacity and social distancing is required along with face masks. And if you’re going to be served, you have to be seated

"That’s why we have our seating areas," Harrison said.

However, some bars in Florida opened weeks ago. They found a workaround by getting a restaurant license and serving food. Some bars even served small items such as Hot Pockets and potato chips. 

Matt Hooker of Old Coast Ales re-opened this summer and started selling gourmet meat pies.

"Even if it was a small amount of food, it was well worth opening for that," Hooker said. 

He looks at his restaurant license as a sort of insurance.

"We don’t know what will happen in the future. If we get another upswing of coronavirus attacks, they could close us again. So we’re protected," Hooker said. "We're protected as a business as far as being able to be open."

The Carrera Wine Cellar could have opened earlier than Monday because it sells cheeseboards, but its owners chose to wait it out.

Now that it can reopen as a bar again, precautions are in place so you can partake.