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Proposal would expand Hillsborough's mask mandate to outdoor bar, restaurant spaces

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 23:15:28-05

TAMPA, Fla.  — A Hillsborough County commissioner is taking aim at outdoor, alcohol-fueled gatherings.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman said it’s time to take action to curb superspreader events happening at local bars and restaurants.

On Thursday, commissioners will debate Overman's proposal to expand the county’s mask mandate to outdoor bar and restaurant spaces.

“There is a perception that if people are outdoors, they’re not at risk and that’s not true,” Overman said. “We’re looking to try and reduce the community spread that occurs in outdoor gatherings where social distancing is very difficult for the business owners to manage.”

According to the proposal, customers would have to be seated in order to receive food or drinks at establishments that serve alcohol.

It would also require face coverings to be worn outside, unless socially distanced, actively eating or drinking.

The proposal also bans outdoor dance floors and prohibits customers from eating or standing at bars.

“There’s just no gathering and no table hopping,” Veronica Danko, owner of The Independent, said Monday. “This is a place where people know each other and it’s really hard to keep people from visiting other people, especially during a time when they haven’t been in public a lot.”

While Overman says it’s time to ramp up restrictions in order to curb the community spread of the coronavirus, some commissioners are already voicing their opposition.

“Many of our small businesses have been crushed and are barely surviving,” commissioner Ken Hagan said. “I’m concerned these additional measures would frankly be the death knell for many of them.”