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Bars can reopen in Florida on Monday, but some say they need more help

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Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 09:39:36-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Monday is a big day for bars across Florida. For some, it’s their first chance to reopen their doors in months after state leaders forced bars, who didn’t make the majority of their income from food sales, to close.

Bars will have to operate at 50% capacity with social distancing measures in place.

RELATED: Florida bars and breweries allowed to reopen Monday, September 14 at 50 percent capacity

Some local bar and live music venue owners tell ABC Action News they may not open right away because they can’t make ends meet by only operating at half occupancy.

Others rely on live music, which they say performances from national touring bands could still months away from safely returning.

Some Tampa Bay bar and music venue owners recently started an online petition asking local and state leaders for stimulus support since they were the first to close for the pandemic and now are the last businesses to reopen.

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Tom DeGeorge, the co-owner of Crowbar in Ybor City, says the help is much needed.

“What we really need is city county and state-level funding so we can survive this. Just opening us doesn’t mean any of us will be left here a year from now due to the massive amount of debt we’ve compiled,” he explained.

State leaders haven’t said when bars will be allowed to reopen at full capacity. That also worries DeGeorge.

“By no fault of my own, I’ve compiled a half-million dollars in debt," he said.

A few miles away in downtown Tampa, Rosa Chapparo at the Attic Cafe says they’re taking a slow approach to reopening. During the day, they operate as a cafe, but at night, they turn into a bar with live music.

“We’re going to keep it slowly and we’re not going into live music and live events right away, but I think it’s going to work out," Chapparo said.

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So, what will local leaders do to help struggling businesses?

Hillsborough County recently launched an R3 program giving up to $40,000 to local businesses. So far, Commissioner Kimberly Overman says they’ve processed 1,035 applications.

The average payment per business was $14,641. A total of $15 million has already been distributed, according to Overman.

Overman is working to open up support for more businesses, including those who may not meet the minimum requirement of having been open a full year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re giving out cash grants and support to assist those businesses but that assistance isn’t enough to cover your rent for 6 months,” she explained.

DeGeorge plans to continue to petition state and local leaders for help, as he gears towards safely reviving his livelihood. He plans to start booking local artists to return to the Crowbar in October. Those artists will play to smaller crowds.