Tampa music venue owner blasts elected officials: ‘You’re gonna put us all out of business’

'A fifth grader could have put this plan together... it's a fucking joke.'

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click to enlarge Tampa music venue owner blasts elected officials: ‘You’re gonna put us all out of business’
Photo via Michael M. Sinclair

This morning, Florida suspended alcohol consumption at bars statewide. The order from the state left the window open for establishments to still serve alcohol as long they derive 50% or less of gross revenue from the sale of on-site booze. Establishments that derive more than 50% of gross sales from alcohol, will not be able to continue to operate, but bars will be able to continue selling pre-packaged alcohol.

The order undoubtedly has bar and live music venues owners frustrated beyond belief. Most of them—especially the ones that’ve continually done the right thing by following shutdown orders or temporarily closing after a COVID-19 exposure—aren’t mad about not being able to open though.

They’re mad about the state’s haphazard, willy nilly, plan and approach to tackling coronavirus shutdowns.

In Ybor City, Kevin Lilly, co-owner and operator of the Rock Brothers Brewing and The Attic music venue half-joked, “If I set up an Autonomous Zone around my bar in Ybor, can I open and do whatever I want then?”

Another such frustrated owner is Tom DeGeorge, GM and co-founder of Crowbar live music venue in Ybor City. On Friday, DeGeorge, who recently postponed his venue's reopening after an employee was exposed to COVID-19, unleashed during a nearly three-minute, “not safe for work” video clip explaining his frustration.

“There's been no rhyme or reason to anything they've done,” DeGeorge, 46, said. “From the president, and then he threw it in the lap of the governors, and we had a bullshit plan.”

In May, DeGeorge, one of many local venue owners who’ve seen their concert calendars decimated for the foreseeable future, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that his venue, which did not get PPP loans, probably lost $400,000 in gross revenue.

DeGeorge went on to slam the enforcement of any reopening guidelines, adding that “the only people that are suffering, are the good businesses that are trying to do it right,” and that this week marks the fourth time he tried to do a reopening the right way.

“The dates have changed, the rules have changed, everything keeps changing, and now they're taking away our ability to even try to do this right again. I don't know how we're supposed to comply with anything when the rules keep changing,” DeGeorge said. He conceded that there are several restaurants doing things right, but that the ones not complying are making it hard for everyone else.

“We can't book a show. we can't plan anything, but then you go down the street for months and restaurants are doing whatever they want.”

“I'm ashamed of our government. I'm ashamed of the situation they put us in, and I hope everybody goes out and votes, I really do. Because they're destroying small businesses,” DeGeorge added. “It's embarrassing a fifth grader could have put this plan together. It was no planning and on most of these committees, there was no true small business owners, it's a fucking joke.”

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About The Author

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...
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