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Big Bend bars fight to survive as lawsuit seeks to get bar operations back up and running

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 19:27:21-04

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — A Franklin County bar is pushing back on the Executive Order that closed its doors.

Harry's Bar and Package in Carrabelle is taking the fight straight to the court, saying the only way the bar will survive is to reopen.

Harry's Bar and Package hasn't made any money since Governor Ron DeSantis issued the Executive Order on June 26.

Harry's isn't the only bar feeling the pinch from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

GVO in Tallahassee also hopes things will change sooner rather than later.

"For a coastal bar, they're not really afloat," said Ethan Way, the attorney for Harry's Bar and Package. "They're in the deep water and they're sinking."

Bars statewide feeling the same pain as Harry's Bar and Package in Carrabelle.

The DBPR put a stop to alcohol sales at all bars after a surge of coronavirus cases.

"The purported argument is that young people congregate in bars," Way said." It may be true in certain spots but not in Carabelle and certainly not my client."

DBPR later amended its order, allowing the sale of alcohol at places that make at least half of their money from food sales, leaving Harry's out.

"My client, a small business in Carrabelle, Florida has closed arbitrarily from selling alcohol, but an establishment that has food and also has a bar gets to remain open," said Way.

The lawsuit filed against Gov. DeSantis, the Florida DBPR, and Halsey Beshears, the man over that department, says the Executive Order is unconstitutional.

"This one size fit all approach is not appropriate," Way said.

GVO in Tallahassee echoes that sentiment.

"All of the products that were spoiled, you have to reopen and redo inventory just to be shut down again," said Albert Hansen, the director of operations for Iconic Wonders Management. "Now, we have no idea when we're going to be able to reopen in general."

Both Harry's and GVO don't have any money coming in right now.

GVO is now focused on being more of a restaurant than a bar in hopes of being able to bounce back before it's too late.

"We're taking this time to renovate all the properties so we can have food options available," Hansen said.

Harry's has been in business for 77 years.

The owners say Gov. DeSantis and Secretary Beshears are welcome to visit to see just how the bar is following guidelines to keep everyone safe.

The Governor's office has not responded and DBPR declined to comment.