Pence, unmasked in photo op, eats lunch at Florida burger joint to highlight reopening

He was highlighting the state allowing restaurants to 50% reopen.

May 20, 2020, 3:53 PM

Vice President Mike Pence did something Wednesday that most Americans haven’t done in many weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic: He sat down for lunch at a burger joint.

The vice president held a photo op at Beth’s Burger Bar in Florida along with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis to highlight efforts to allow restaurants in the state to begin reopening for limited, in-person service.

Pence ordered a cheeseburger.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence, center, gestures as he speaks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, after ordering lunch at Beth's Burger Bar, May 20, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
Vice President Mike Pence, center, gestures as he speaks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, after ordering lunch at Beth's Burger Bar, May 20, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
Chris O'meara/AP

"Load it up," Pence told owner Beth Steele when she asked what toppings he’d like on his burger.

Neither the vice president, nor Steele, nor DeSantis, or many others nearby, wore masks.

“You all starting to get busy?” the vice president said to the staff in the kitchen, who were also not wearing masks.

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The vice president paid with cash, handed the money to Steele and requesting that she put the change in the tips jar.

Steele handed the vice president a fountain cup and a receipt in return.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence, right, talks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as they wait for their lunch at Beth's Burger Bar, May 20, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
Vice President Mike Pence, right, talks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as they wait for their lunch at Beth's Burger Bar, May 20, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. Pence is scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion with hospitality and tourism industry leaders to discuss their plans for re-opening during the coronavirus outbreak.
Chris O'meara/AP

After DeSantis also ordered a burger, the two men filled up the cups Steele handed them at the soda fountain machine and made their way to a table inside the restaurant, greeting other patrons in the restaurant along the way.

The vice president did not shake hands with anyone but it did not appear that there was always six feet of distance between him and the people he greeted.

They two men sat down at a table, with other patrons seated at tables nearby.

According to the vice president’s spokesman Devin O’Malley, patrons and staff at the restaurant were given temperature checks and questioned about whether they had any symptoms prior to the vice president’s visit but were not given tests.

Steele told the vice president that the restaurant is operating a 50 percent seating capacity indoors in keeping with the state’s guidelines for a phased reopening.

Steele said the restaurant is excited to be reopening its doors to in-person customers after weeks of service that was limited to takeout.

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