With COVID-19 cases on the rise statewide—and local hospitals beginning to see more admission related to coronavirus—the City of Tampa has announced plans to begin pursuing the suspension and revocation of the alcoholic beverage permits of businesses which repeatedly violate city and county COVID-19 emergency orders regarding face coverings and alcohol sales.
In a 3:26 a.m. press release sent on Wednesday morning, the city wrote that “repeat offenders (2 or more citations)” will be affected and that notices of intent to suspend and/or revoke permits will go to both the business and property owner.
“The City is authorized under Section 27-318 of the City Code to take action against alcoholic beverage permittees and owners of property from which alcoholic beverages are sold and/or consumed,” the release said. “This enforcement action is in addition to citations that have been, and will continue to be, issued by Code Enforcement and the Tampa Police Department.”
Since mid-December—when Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced that the City of Tampa would begin cracking down on local businesses that flout local social distancing and mask restrictions—several bars have been cited by code enforcement for mask and dance floor violations.
On Dec. 18, City of Tampa spokesperson Ashley Bauman told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that MacDinton's in South Tampa, plus Ybor City's King Corona, Mojito House and The Purple Heart, all received $150 fines.
Later that same week, the city issued eight more citations, including first offenses to Yard Of Ale, Qvesoir, West Ybor Barterhouse, downtown Tampa’s Dio Modern Med, 7th + Grove, Tangra and La Herencia De Ybor. Ybor Cigars Plus, which includes Mojito House, was issued a second citation.
In another text message to CL, Bauman added that on Dec. 26 more enforcement happened, with two mask violation citations issued for Tangra (second citation) and Ybor Cigars Plus (third citation).
To kick off 2021, Bauman said that code enforcement conducted 154 inspections on Jan. 1-Jan. 2, and issued six citations, including a second citation for MacDinton’s in South Tampa. Bar Howard, just a block away from MacDinton’s, was also fined for mask violations on Jan. 1. On the same night in Ybor City, three bars—Southern Nights, Prana and The Ritz—were issued citations for violating mask and dance floor ordinances. On Jan. 2, Ybor City’s Club Skye was also issued a citation.
Initial fines for violating the ordinances that prohibit gathering on dance floors or not wearing your mask unless seated are $150. While individuals can’t be fined, businesses that don’t enforce these rules can receive a civil citation and a fine up to $500, or a second degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.
Wednesday’s announcement takes enforcement even further.
In the release, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor detailed how the city has worked to help keep businesses open in the safest way possible and educate the public on ordinances over the last seven month. She cited the launch of the OneTampa fund to provide assistance to businesses and families, the implementation of Lift Up Local as a reaction to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ phase one reopening plan, and the city’s adoption of a grassroots “Safe & Sound” initiative that sees local businesses regulate themselves and each other to practice enforcement of mask ordinances, limited-capacity and social distancing.
“Over the last several months, we have erred on the side of education and encouragement while relying heavily on the responsibility of our residents to help pull us out of this pandemic and come back stronger than ever,” Castor added. “And while the vast majority of our businesses and residents are acting responsibly, we can’t allow a few bad actors to compromise and lengthen the recovery efforts for an entire community.”
According to city code 27-318, decisions regarding suspension and revocation of alcoholic beverage permits have to go through city council.
The council decision would also have to follow a public hearing, with suspensions happening in a tiered format where second violations earn a 60-day suspension, third violations earn a 90-day suspension and fourth violations allow council to consider revocation.
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