Executive Order 20-244 is somewhat unclear. Despite news reports that Florida reopening Phase 3 means going back to pre-COVID business, the wording of the executive order and the press conference on Friday, September 25th what that really means for businesses is as clear as mud.

Here’s what we know for certain:

  • Effective immediately as of 2020-09-25
  • No business can be forced to close.
    • There is no longer a distinction of “essential” and “non-essential” services.
    • All businesses have the right to operate in some capacity.
  • Restaurants may re-open to 100% indoor capacity.
    • Local governments may restrict indoor capacity to no lower than 50% and must quantify the economic impact of the added restrictions and must also explain why they are necessary for public health.
  • Bars are still limited to 50% capacity.
    • Local governments may increase that up to 100% if they believe it will be safe for their area.
  • Fines or penalties levied upon individuals for COVID-19 violations can no longer be collected.
    • Anyone that still owes does not have to pay

We don’t know if EO 20-244 also cancels all social distancing and safety requirements. Are “restrictions” related to day-to-day operations and operation capacity, or do they extend to safety regulations such as additional cleaning, social distancing, etc. Until they hear from the various state regulatory agencies (or the governor’s office), many businesses are sticking with the status quo.

We know that local governments cannot require a business to keep it’s doors closed any longer, and they cannot reduce restaurants or bars to less than 50% capacity. However, it’s unclear whether local governments can enforce additional safety measures.