TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – With positive cases of Covid increasing, the City of Tampa is cracking down on bar and restaurant owners who violate the current city and county COVID-19 emergency orders.
Officials with the City of Tampa say if a business receives two or more citations related to mask wearing and social distancing, the beverage permit of that business could be revoked. At Lala’s Sangria Bar, located in the Channel District of downtown, the owner, John English says he hasn’t had any issues with customers wearing masks or social distancing, but he understands why the city is deciding to increase its efforts to keep people safe. “We got shut down the second week of March, which was about four months after we opened.”
English says his bar has struggled since the pandemic started. “We’re trying to survive this just like everybody else. The hospitality industry has been decimated. We have no tourism.” Despite this, he says he’s thankful for the locals who support his business. “We have tried to follow the CDC guidelines the entire time what the city and county have been trying to do. We are lucky to have great customers who really follow what the guidelines are.” English maintains while he hasn’t had issues with customers wearing masks and social distancing, he sees how it can be hard for other bar owners to monitor.
City of Tampa officials say since December 17, code enforcement have completed nearly 400 inspections of local businesses and issued around 20 citations. “Unfortunately, there are some bad actors, and we’ve seen the results of that in the uptick in the number of COVID cases,” said Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor. Mayor Castor says while a majority of bar owners are following guidelines, another step need to be taken, adding, “Now what we are going to do is to provide an advisement that those individuals that have violated over and over, are going to receive a hearing that will look to suspend their special use permit. Most people know it as wet-zoning for the establishment.”
English says he makes sure everyone wears masks in his bar and keeps it at 50% capacity and he hopes other bar owners do what they can to avoid losing their liquor licenses. “We just brought people back to work. If [suspension of licenses] happens, then we are going to have to lay people off, the industry is, so I would imagine it’s important for everyone at this point.”
Mayor Castor says code enforcement will continue to complete restaurant and bar inspections over the next several months.
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