Video shows crowded Tampa rooftop patio during coronavirus pandemic

Instagram posts show a packed Cinco de Mayo patio at Mole y Abuela.

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click to enlarge Video shows crowded Tampa rooftop patio during coronavirus pandemic
Screengrab via CarlosEats/Twitter

UPDATED: 05/07/20 1:07 p.m.

As Tampa restaurants begin to reopen in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, some establishments seem to have figured out how to safely manage their crowds, and some have work to do.

A now-deleted Instagram post from Nocturnal Hospitality Group, which owns Mole y Abuela, shows a Cinco de Mayo crowd on its downtown rooftop patio.

The video was copied and shared across social media, notably by local food blogger Carlos Hernandez of Carlos Eats, and appears to show people standing closer than six-feet, milling around with drinks, and no one wearing masks (patrons are encouraged to wear masks, but they're not required to). 


The City of Tampa recently released a set of 12 rules for restaurants to follow while they begin to reopen. Some of the rules include: limiting capacity to 25%, and no patrons are permitted to sit, stand or be served at the bar. There’s also a “no seat, no service” rule that says patrons must be seated at a table. One of the more explicit rules says “Patrons may not stand around with a drink inside or outside a restaurant. Patrons must be seated at a table or leave the establishment.” The six-foot rule also applies to any outdoor seating.

An Instagram post from Nocturnal Hospitality Group confirmed that the restaurant would open beginning on May 4 with limited seating. 

Via a company rep, owners of Nocturnal Group—which also owns Franklin Manor and Osteria—sent Creative Loafing Tampa Bay the following statement:

"Mole Y Abuela on May 5th abided by all Covid19 guidelines. Our tables were six feet apart and we only sat guests within the 25% capacity rule inside. All our staff was wearing masks and gloves. We did not seat any guests at the bar and we even hired security ushers to ensure no guests camped out at the bar. One video surely doesn't tell the whole story. We have gone above & beyond with safety precautions. This establishment has been utilized as a weekend relief hub providing food and supplies to front line workers, first responders and those in need for the past 7 weeks while our normal operations remained paused. Our company has always and continues to fully support Mayor Castor and all the efforts she has been doing to support small businesses. These are unprecedented times and we are all trying to adjust as best we can to get through it together."

But another video shared to Instagram by Nocturnal Group General Manager Tye Ali shows people standing at the bar. And a neighbor, who asked to stay anonymous, shared a video taken from their nearby balcony (here's a screenshot from the video).

"That is correct the guests in those screenshots are ordering at the bar and our staff and security team were politely escorting guests who were lingering or congregating there after receiving drinks and not returning to their tables in a timely fashion-educating and reminding them of the current guidelines," ownership told CL on Wednesday.

"We believed we were abiding by all the set forth guidelines. State Code enforcement & TPD officials did stop in and clarified all the bar related details with us. It is a learning experience for our industry, our staff and our guests whose safety is always our number one priority. We're clear now and will continue to operate the business safely and abide by all Covid19 rules."

click to enlarge Video shows crowded Tampa rooftop patio during coronavirus pandemic
Screengrab via Tye Ali/Instagram


Mole y Abuela wasn’t the only local establishment that apparently struggled with crowds yesterday. Hernandez also shared photos of large groups bunched outside Bartaco in South Tampa’s Hyde Park Village.

On Wednesday night, a rep from Bartaco sent CL this message.

“We were excited for Cinco de Mayo and know our guests were too. Due to the volume of requests for take-out, we disabled in-person ordering as well as online ordering past 6pm out of an abundance of caution to safely serve those who ordered in advance. Although we took the proper precautions to enforce responsible curbside pick-up, we underestimated the demand with many still inquiring about take-home options in-person and weren’t able to provide guests with the service they can expect from bartaco. As always, the health and safety of our guests and bartaco team members is our top priority. We take this matter extremely seriously and continue to enforce social distancing policies. We greatly appreciate your support as we do our best to navigate these challenging times."

Also, as we previously reported, Green Lemon was bombarded with Cinco de Mayo crowds, however the South Tampa Tex-Mex spot stopped all service at 7:20 p.m. when it could no longer maintain a safe atmosphere. 

Maybe allowing restaurants to open on a day that consists of both Cinco de Mayo and Taco Tuesday wasn't a great idea after all. 

In very related news, confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida surpassed 38,000 on Wednesday, along with 1,605 deaths. In the past 24 hours, 12 new deaths were reported here in the Tampa Bay area.

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

About The Authors

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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