Can You Lose Your Business License for Violating COVID-19 Safety Guidelines?
Three weeks after Florida entered Phase 2 of reopening on June 5, Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that businesses could face license suspensions for violating the state’s coronavirus safety guidelines. The governor said at a June 23 press conference that businesses that “flagrantly” violate COVID-19 safety rules will get in trouble with the law, according to the Orlando Business Journal.
As of June 23, there were over 103,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Florida. More than 3,200 Floridians died as a result of COVID-19. The announcement that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation would crack down on businesses that violate COVID-19 safety guidelines came after an Orlando bar had its liquor license suspended for not following the state’s guidelines.
Even though most restaurants, bars, and other establishments are taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and are following all safety guidelines mandated by state and federal authorities, outbreaks among employees and customers have prompted many of them to shut down.
Warnings and License Suspensions for Violating Florida’s COVID-19 Safety Rules
The state of Florida will not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to punishing businesses for violating coronavirus safety rules. Businesses with a minor violation of social distancing, capacity, or other safety guidelines will be given a warning.
However, businesses that “flagrantly” violate safety rules could lose their business license, Gov. DeSantis said. The governor also warned that businesses that disregard the safety rules would get a visit from the “grim reaper.”
According to the report, Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) are poised to issue warnings and suspend business licenses depending on the severity of violations. As of June 5, a total of 106 violations were reported to the state’s authorities, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears.
Fines and Penalties for Violating the Governor’s Executive Orders in Florida
According to The Palm Beach Post, any restaurant or bar owner whose establishment violates Gov. DeSantis’s executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to two months in jail and a fine of $500.
However, the report claims that no establishment found in violation of the governor’s orders faced fines or any enforcement action in the 335 cases reviewed by USA Today. According to the report, “hundreds of restaurants” may have disregarded coronavirus safety guidelines since the beginning of Phase 1 of reopening. Also, many bars, nightclubs, and other alcohol-serving establishments in Florida may have served alcohol to customers and patrons in violation of the governor’s order.
Over 110 complaints were filed against restaurants and bars for violating the executive orders signed by Gov. DeSantis in the first week of Phase 1. From May 11 to May 26, residents of Florida filed an additional over 220 complaints with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) when the state’s reopening plan expanded to Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties.
If your business is being accused of violating the governor’s executive order or not following COVID-19 safety rules, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable West Palm Beach business litigation attorney. As laws are changing and new executive orders are signed every week during these volatile times, it is vital to be represented by a lawyer. Contact Pike & Lustig, LLP, to schedule a consultation. Call at 561-291-8298 for a case review.