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Ybor Bar COVID-19 Violations Discussed At City Council Meeting

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Tampa City Council members found that a local bar violated Coronavirus restrictions, but decided not to suspend the sale of alcohol there.

7th and Grove in Ybor City was cited for crowds and a lack of social distancing by code enforcement in December 2020 and January 2021. They were one of four bars in Ybor City discussed at the council meeting, but was the only one to have been found in violation of Coronavirus restrictions. Instead of having the sale of liquor be suspended, the council basically gave the bar a strike on its record. Some people say it was the right decision while others say there could have been more of a penalty.

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Krystal Ramos, Tampa Code Enforcement Officer said "They were not social distancing, they were not seated while not eating or drinking."

Susan Johnson-Velez with the City Attorney's Office asked "But did you see individuals not wearing masks?"

"I do believe some were not wearing a mask, but the citation was for congregating," replied Ramos, describing what she saw at the Ybor City bar, 7th and Grove in January, when the bar was issued its second citation.

Owner, Dr. Jamaris Glenn, says since December, he has done everything he can to keep people safe. "December 19th, after we were fined, we had consistent meetings with our staff to ensure that all employees are masked. The mask and face shield is required upon entry, and must be worn until guests are seated at a private table. Our space is fogged and disinfected at least twice a week," said Glenn.

Glenn said at Monday's hearing, that if the council were to suspend the bar's sale of alcohol, it would impact his employees income. "We are asking for grace today and a continuing partnership with the city to provide the safest environment for our staff and patrons during this trying time," said Glenn.

Grace is exactly what he received.

Guido Maniscalco, Tampa City Councilman, said "This last year, it has been extremely difficult because it's literally been every obstacle that has been thrown at someone has been thrown at someone."

Three other bars were discussed at the meeting. The Purple Heart Bar Lounge and Grill's owner, Keith Norates said he tried to enforce Coronavirus regulations, but over time got confused by evolving enforcement of the law. The bar was ruled not in violation. The Ritz Ybor and Prana Ybor's Premier Nitespot's hearings were delayed.

Residents in the area disagree about how the city council is responding to the violations.

Taylor Fuller, Tampa resident, said "Leniency is an option because the vaccines is out and it's your own risk."

Giovanni Delarosa, Tampa resident, said "Suspending a liquor license would probably give them an awakening, letting them know, 'Hey we aren't playing around.'"

Hearings for the Ritz Ybor, Prana, and MacDinton's are scheduled for March 8, 2021.

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