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Tampa code enforcement cracking down on restaurants operating like bars

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 23:21:43-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- ABC Action News went with two code enforcement officers as they patrolled Friday night in Ybor City.

"We’re here to educate and that, you know, you can remain open just follow these guidelines so you can remain open," said Barbara Riley.

The state of Florida ordered a ban on bars serving customers on-site.

This week, ABC Action News profiled growing concerns that some local restaurants are using their ability to remain open as an opportunity to operate like a bar.


Attorney Gina Grimes, with the City of Tampa, issued a letter to more than 100 businesses warning them to play by the rules and follow social distancing guidelines.

"Individuals that are not following the rules are really going to drag this out much longer than it needs to be and cause much more damage than they should," Mayor Jane Castor said this week.

Business owners caught in violation face a fine of up to $500 and potentially have their liquor license suspended by the state.

"We want you to be in compliance because we want you to keep your doors open, we want people to be employed but we also want you to follow the rules and people to stay healthy," said Kinnette Scallo with Tampa Code Enforcement.

Scallo and Riley checked in with Gaspar's Grotto, located on Seventh Avenue, and found all staff members wearing a mask and customers sitting socially distant inside and outside.

"We’re just trying to stay open for our employees because everybody needs to make money and everybody is struggling at this time," said manager Chuck Emerson.

Halsey Beshears, Secretary of Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation, took to social media Friday evening to announce that the state's booze ban at bars will remain in effect.

Beshears said on social media that due to the state seeing a steady increase in positive cases in Florida, "there will be no change from emergency order 2020-09."

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