Large crowds, no masks, and absolutely no social distancing — it’s what happened in Ybor city on New Year's Eve.
“It’s disappointing and it’s very irresponsible,” said Jane Castor, Mayor of Tampa.
She says it’s happening across the nation but with the Super Bowl right around the corner, it’s not a good look.
“That’s not the image that we want to portray to the country and it certainly isn’t the identity of Tampa,” said Castor.
So far code enforcement officers have done close to 400 checks during the holiday season and Castor says that most restaurants and bars have followed the rules, but for the ones that still haven’t, “We have provided warnings we provided educational material we have provided citations to the violators,” Castor said.
Tampa Lawyer and the Chair of GrayRobinson’s nationwide alcohol industry team Richard Blau says having a license to sell alcohol carries a huge responsibility.
“Engaging in the sale and service of alcohol is never a right, it’s a privilege,” said Blau.
He says bars and restaurants who don’t understand that and bend or break the rules under city or county ordinances can face big consequences.
“You’re subject to having a range of disciplinary actions, from a warning decease and desist assist, to a financial penalty to a suspension of your license, to even a revocation of that license,” he said.
Mayor Caster says they’re now stepping up penalties for repeat violators. They will now hand out hearing notices that could suspend their special use permit also known as the “wet zoning.”
“I think if you asked any of the bar owners or the property owners that have bars as tenants, the two things that they are afraid of or the fire marshal and anything to do with their wet zoning.”
In a statement, Mayor Castor says the city has tried to help small business flourish during the Pandemic, “
“Our goal from day one of the pandemic has been to protect the health and lives of our residents while taking steps to keep businesses open and operating in the safest possible way,” said Mayor Jane Castor. “When the shutdown began we launched OneTampa [tampabay.com] to provide small business relief and housing assistance for families who lost income due to COVID. When the Governor announced the Phase I reopening, we launched Lift Up Local [tampabay.com] to provide expanded outdoor space for patrons. We have also recently teamed up with Safe & Sound [bizjournals.com], an initiative started by a group of restaurant and bar owners that encourages their peers to practice safety protocols during business hours. 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. 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.”