Orange County

Future of Orlando bars beyond COVID-19 uncertain

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer suggested Tuesday it will be months before bars are allowed to reopen and a vaccine is available.

However, bar owners in downtown Orlando told Eyewitness News they don’t know how much longer they can survive since they were shut down, then reopened, then shut down again – and there’s no end in sight.

Bars near the University of Central Florida were seen with packed houses and not following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in patrons testing positive for the virus.

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On ABC,, Dyer said he doesn’t see how bars will reopen anytime soon.

“I think bars are in one of the most difficult situations,” he said. “So I just don’t know how, until probably we have a vaccine, I’m not sure how we bring the bars back,” Dyer said.

His statement came after the Department of Professional and Business Regulation started to meet with bars last Friday. Orlando was not on the list for those initial talks.

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The mayor’s staff told Eyewitness News that his statement had nothing to do with the DPBR meeting, but is just what he thinks.

Aaron Dudek is one of the owners of The Woods, The Lodge and Burton’s, and said navigating the pandemic isn’t easy.

“If the bars aren’t in downtown Orlando, there’s nothing happening. There is no retail. Nothing’s going on down here,” he said. “The first time we were shut down was a surprise. And we made it through. And then we reopened.”

The owners shut down two of the bars again, even before the state shut them down.

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But with the shut down dragging on, and bills keep coming, they’ve taken out loans to survive.

As for Dyer’s comments, he said he doesn’t necessarily think the mayor is way off base, and believes both bars and restaurants should be shut down too, at least until cases start dropping “until they get the numbers down.”

“I don’t necessarily know if it’s the vaccine part, but until they get the numbers down, school shouldn’t start either,” he said.

Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

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