It may be called Government 101: The state’s rules override local ones.
In advance of Biketoberfest 2020, Volusia County officials had crafted an emergency ordinance to allow the event to go forward, but under restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Biketoberfest, which has grown well beyond the bounds of Daytona Beach, is set for Oct. 15-18 this year.
However, the County Council learned Sept. 29 that its ordinance is now void, because Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent executive order lifting restrictions on restaurants and other businesses is supreme over local anti-COVID-19 laws.
“There’s not much we can do,” County Chair Ed Kelley conceded. “The governor’s executive order pretty much eliminates any of the restrictions that we wanted to put in place.”
DeSantis issued his latest COVID-related executive order Sept. 25. The decree allows restaurants to return to 100 percent of their normal seating capacity. It further affirms the “right to work and operate a business,” and it “suspends the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals.”
The county administration had developed a safety plan to be followed by applicants for permits related to temporary campgrounds, itinerant merchants and outdoor entertainment.
Each person applying for a permit to operate such businesses or activities leading up to and during Biketoberfest would be required to read and sign a form agreeing to follow the safety plan.
The draft ordinance and safety plan mandated applicants to maintain a 6-foot separation between campsites; vendors’ tables and tents; and restaurant tables and booths.
Restaurants would be limited to 50 percent of their normal occupancy. Businesses would be further required to provide masks for employees and to “ensure that hand sanitizer is available” for employees and visitors.
Not least of all, business owners would be required to put up posters urging people to “wash up, back up and mask up.”
By making the signing of the safety-plan forms a requirement to obtain a special-event permit for Biketoberfest, business owners pledged to adhere to the county’s extra anti-COVID-19 regulations.
The county’s order provided for the issuance of citations for violations.
“The governor has essentially pre-empted us from putting in place additional restrictions,” county Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin said. “The plan we developed is a recommended action to protect the public.”
“We can’t make it mandatory. We couldn’t enforce it,” he added.
County Manager George Recktenwald predicted those coming to celebrate Biketoberfest will behave responsibly.
“I have optimism that people will want to do the right thing,” he said.
The “right thing” includes following the federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines on hygiene, including frequent hand-washing or use of hand sanitizer; avoiding large groups of people; keeping a minimum 6-foot space between one’s self and others; and wearing masks in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
Biketoberfest began in Daytona Beach in the early 1990s as a fall event similar to Bike Week, which takes place in March.
Over the years, Biketoberfest has grown well beyond the Halifax area to include the middle and western parts of Volusia County. The event typically attracts about 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts.