FL Businesses Move Into Full Phase 1 As Attorney Plans Lawsuit

Paul Scicchitano

MIRAMAR, FL — Daniel Liriano's clippers were buzzing again Monday as he put the finishing touches on a blowout haircut in his Lion Style Barbershop & Salon after losing nearly two months of business to the coronavirus shut down in Florida.

“Oh yeah. I’m happy, but this industry has been hurt already," the 45-year-old Liriano said. "There’s a lot of businesses that basically are going to have to close."

Liriano made headlines earlier this month when he briefly disobeyed an emergency order restricting nonessential businesses like his. He was forced to shut down by Miramar city officials who slapped him with two fines and threatened his professional license as well as the licenses of five other barbers who work with him.

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The case got the attention of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was asked about it at a news conference.

"I really believe that if somebody is able to conduct their business in a way that is low risk, government shouldn't be restricting them," the governor said.

Now open legally, Liriano said he plans to file a lawsuit against state and local officials through Florida attorney Jacob Weil of the Weil Law Group later this week in U.S. District Court.

Weil told Patch the lawsuit will include at least one other business owner but that he expects to expand the suit into a class action on behalf of any Florida businesses that own or lease their premises and were damaged by the coronavirus shutdown. The suit will be based on the legal principle of eminent domain, which provides for property owners to be compensated when the government takes their property.

"The government took his property because they took the economic value of it," said Weil, who has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. "While they may not have built a public park on it, they did it for the benefit of public health, just like you would build a park, or a road might be built for the community. They should pay for that taking."

Elsewhere in the state, restaurants, retail businesses, museums and now gyms were given the OK to expand up to 50 percent of their maximum capacity as Florida moved to a full phase one of DeSantis' reopening plan under an order issued Friday.

For the first time, businesses in Broward and Miami-Dade counties were included in the reopening.

Alex Rudolph, a partner in the TapCo Restaurant Group, which operates seven Tap 42 eateries, including one at the upscale CityPlace Doral, said business was slow for Monday's initial lunch service, although a sister location in Palm Beach County opened Thursday and had a strong first weekend.

"I think that there’s definitely a decent segment of the population that is ready to get back out, ready to get out of their house, ready to get back into their favorite restaurant bars and just sort of socialize within the new social distance norms," Rudolph said.

The preferred seating is now outdoors. "Our priority is making people feel safe and clean, but still have a great time and not feel like they are eating in a hospital," he said. "They are eating in a restaurant."

In the Sarasota area, Mattison’s Restaurants and Catering was able to expand to 50 percent capacity Monday. Even so, business at all three fine dining locations has been much slower than it was in the days leading up to the coronavirus shutdown in Florida.

"I think people are just acting within their own comfort zones," said Caryn V. Hodge of the restaurant group. "We’ve done pretty well. We’re not complaining, considering this is all kind of just uncharted territory for everybody. We’re respecting people’s decision to stay home or still use curbside pickup."

The governor's expanded phase one order also overrides any local orders that prohibit professional sports teams and venues from hosting "training, competitions, events and games." DeSantis invited teams from other states to come to Florida for their training if they are unable to train back home.

Amusement parks may also submit reopening plans to the state, including proposed dates for the resumption of operations as well as plans to protect guests and employees.

While many beaches remain closed, Florida counties may request approval to operate vacation rentals under the expanded order, but DeSantis warned he would not look favorably on requests to rent properties to people from New York City.

Jeff Sherman's Color Me Mine business at the Gulfstream Park Village shopping center also reopened Monday, but he reported mixed success after several hours.

Usually when kids are home from school, the business would be full of parents painting pottery with their children, according to Sherman.

"There wasn’t a single customer," he shared. "People are afraid for sure."

This article originally appeared on the Sarasota Patch