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Tampa City Council holds more hearings to consider suspending alcohol licenses

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 18:59:14-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Two Ybor City businesses went before Tampa City Council on Monday for hearings to consider suspending or revoking their alcohol licenses.

Hearings were for Purple Heart Bar Lounge and Grill and 7th and Grove in Tampa, part of a citywide crackdown on reckless behavior, targeting repeat violators of the mask mandate.

“It’s important to note that we’re here today as a last resort,” said Susan Johnson-Velez, senior assistant city attorney. “The express intent of both orders was to seek voluntary compliance with the provisions and to educate and warn of the dangers of non-compliance.”

RELATED: Tampa City Council suspends alcohol licenses at two local bars for COVID-19 code violations

City council first held a public hearing for Purple Heart Bar Lounge and Grill. Documents show the business faced violations for employees seen not wearing masks when not social distancing in December. Weeks later in January, violations included customers standing around a bar, dancing, and not wearing masks.

Keith Norates, the business owner, explained he did everything in his power to make sure employees and customers were safe.

“As a new business owner only in business roughly a little over two months, I was very overwhelmed with getting my business on track to be somewhat successful, and then got hit with the curveball of COVID of course and code enforcement," said Norates.

Norates went on to say he did everything possible by putting signs up, making announcements, and taking other measures, while he also asked the council for understanding. The council was unable to pass a motion because they were split, so Purple Heart’s hearing was moved and will be re-opened on March 4.

7th and Grove went through a public hearing as well. Documents show violations included employees not wearing masks when not social distancing and customers who weren’t seated on the dance floor in December, along with customers not practicing social distancing in January.

The council voted to find 7th and Grove in violation, but their alcohol license was not suspended.

“We have seen the ramification of the virus firsthand in our practices and understand that this is something that’s not to be taken lightly,” said Dr. Jamaris Glenn, 7th and Grove's owner.

City council member John Dingfelder took a moment during the meeting Monday to remind the community not to lose sight we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

“This is about health, safety, and sanitation, and it wouldn’t matter if we were talking about rats and roaches in the kitchen or a public health issue out in the bar area,” said Dingfelder. “This is important.”

Two other businesses were scheduled to have hearings Monday as well —The Ritz Ybor and Prana Ybor’s Premier Nitespot. Those hearings were moved to March 8.

MacDinton’s Irish Pub will also have a hearing March 8, after being granted a continuance last week.

City council held hearings last Thursday, voting to suspend Tangra Nightclub's alcohol license for three days on March 25-27 and deciding to suspend the alcohol license at Ybor Cigars Plus on February 22-24.