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Police help educate Tampa restaurants about new closing times

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Posted at 11:04 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 00:05:54-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Police are working to make sure bars and restaurants are educated about new rules in light of coronavirus concerns.

On Tuesday, the governor and mayor announced the new regulations. Bars that generate more than 50 percent of gross revenue through alcohol sales have to suspend all alcoholic beverage sales for 30 days.

Restaurants must limit occupancy to 50 percent and must close for business no later than 10 pm. daily and can reopen at 6 a.m.

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“It’s been a crazy day for everyone and so we’re trying to do notifications and it’s been difficult trying to sort through the various orders. Fortunately for u,s Mayor Castor has given an executive order that has clarified things a lot easier for everybody,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.

Dugan said his interpretation is restaurants that serve alcohol may continue doing so until 10 p.m. On Tuesday night, he and other officers visited Ybor City, Howard and Hyde Park to educate establishments and provide them notifications.

“We need everyone to be good citizens and I think that’s what’s key here is people need to remember they’re exposing themselves and to others. Our cops we don’t have a choice but to get exposed to people who may be carrying this virus,” Dugan said.

Dugan said he doesn’t expect pushback from restaurants.

“Before I came over here I went through Ybor City went through Howard, a lot of the places have already closed very thin crowds. For the most part, people are cooperating with us but you’re always going to have that certain faction that doesn’t want to cooperate,” he said.

Violations are punishable by up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine. But Dugan said they’re not looking to do that and that he has instructed no one is arrested without his consultation.

“We brought in extra officers today and they’re gonna help educate everybody and I would expect to have some speed bumps so to speak first 24 to 48 hours, then we’ll have everybody in compliance,” he said.

One stop included Forbici in Hyde Park.

“We’ve definitely felt it here. The restaurant has been slower we’re staying open focused on takeout and Uber and delivery and curbside service trying to do what we can to provide some food to our guests and the community but people are still saying, 'Thank God you guys are open. We’re so happy you’re here,'” said Jason Brunetti, the restaurant’s managing partner.

Brunetti said they’re listening to the CDC daily and seating people farther apart.

“I’m having to make tough decisions. I’m having to dictate who’s coming in and who’s not taking people off the schedule operate at 50 percent capacity. I’m doing whatever I can and I’m like I said I’m in the same boat as everybody else,” he said.

On Tuesday night, a few people sat at Irish 31 celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is probably the last hoorah for people,” said the restaurant’s front house manager, Jonathan Park.

Park believes people are taking the directives seriously.

“It was kind of scary but I still have a duty to help out my staff, so come in with a positive attitude,” he said.