Courtesy of Channel 6 Click Orlando
By Dara Kam
Published January 19, 2021
Beshears, a former state representative from North
Florida who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in December 2018, said in a
letter to the governor Friday that he has “been dealing with health issues”
for the past two months.
"It is in the best interest of my health, my family, and
the department that I focus my full attention on getting well,” Beshears
agency oversees regulated industries such as
gambling, alcohol and tobacco. The agency also
handles licensing and regulation for a wide
range of professions, including barbers,
cosmetologists and real estate agents.
Beshears, a Republican from Monticello, was
elected to the House in 2012 and was among
DeSantis’ first agency-head selections after the
governor was elected in 2018.
When he announced Beshears’ appointment,
DeSantis called him a “champion for
proud to have worked under your leadership to
remove barriers to employment and increase
opportunity for Floridians. From ‘Deregathon’ to
passing the most comprehensive regulatory
reduction bill in recent history, I believe our
efforts will have a significant and long-lasting
impact on our great state,” Beshears wrote in
Friday’s resignation letter.
Lawmakers last year approved a measure, dubbed the “Occupational Freedom and
Opportunity Act,” that made regulatory changes to professions ranging from
hair braiders to interior designers and addressed issues such as local
regulation of food trucks.
Beshears was in the line of fire last year, as DeSantis and his
administration ordered widespread business shutdowns to try to curb the
spread of the coronavirus. Bars and drinking establishments were among the
many businesses that were shuttered.
Drinking establishments were allowed to reopen on June 5, following an order
issued by DeSantis that allowed them to operate at 50 percent capacity while
requiring customers to be seated. But three weeks later ,as the number of
COVID-19 cases spiked, Beshears ordered a shutdown of “vendors licensed to
sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, but not licensed
to offer food service.”
Beshears blamed the uptick in coronavirus cases on “younger individuals” who
packed into bars, pubs or nightclubs and disregarded social-distancing
requirements that had allowed the establishments to reopen.
But, departing from ordinary regulations, Beshears did not require that a
minimum amount of bar owners’ sales come from food.
Drinking establishments that sold small servings of food, such as Hot
Pockets or hot dogs, were allowed to open, while those that only served
alcoholic beverages were forced to remain shuttered.
Tavern owners throughout the state hurriedly rehabbed behind-the-counter
operations, adding triple sinks, carving out prep areas and signing up for
food-handling training so they could get the go-ahead from Beshears to turn
the lights back on.
“I didn’t do anything different but put a damn Crock-Pot on my bar,” Becky
Glerum, owner of Paddy Wagon Irish Pub in Plant City, told The News Service
of Florida on Sept. 1, a day after she reopened her business.
But critics of the state’s approach, including tavern owners and regulatory
experts, said it didn’t make sense.
“It is kind of is ridiculous because the way they’re trying to draw the
distinction is, there’s a distinction of selling food versus not selling
food,” former Department of Business and Professional Regulation General
Counsel Will Spicola, who also served as director of the department’s
Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, said at the time. “The people
that want to go drink are still going to drink somewhere in some fashion,
and drawing the line at alcohol is kind of the arbitrary part of this.”
Bars were allowed to reopen in September.
Beshears also was in the crosshairs as vacation-rental property owners
sought to reopen last summer.
After shuttering vacation-rental properties in late March, DeSantis on May
18 lifted the ban for counties outside of South Florida, with a caveat:
County officials had to submit proposed rental procedures to the state and
get the go-ahead from Beshears before bookings could resume.
The result was a patchwork of restrictions that varied from one county to
“It’s been very confusing. It’s also been very discouraging, because most of
us have been just happy with our governor and our state and the fact that
it’s very small-business friendly,” Gretchen Kornutik, owner of SunCoast
Beach Vacations, told the News Service in June.