UCF-area bar gets alcohol license reinstated after coronavirus suspension

Knight's Pub has order vacated

ORLANDO, Fla. – A bar near the University of Central Florida that had its alcohol license suspended after both patrons and employees tested positive for COVID-19 is back in good graces as of Friday.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency that revoked Knight’s Pub license in late June, issued an order vacating the suspension on Friday.

The order does not provide a reason as to why the department reversed course.

The owner of the Knight’s Pub told News 6 that he is relieved the state has decided not to pursue suspending his liquor license.

Owner Michael D-Esposito said he’s so concerned for safety that even if Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed for bars to open, he’d stay closed.

“What I’m hearing from hospitals and the beds and, you know, from the facts that I am going and drawing for myself,” D’Esposito said.

In the original order filed on June 22, the state alleged the bar didn’t abide by social distancing guidelines as outlined in DeSantis’ executive order.

“One of the line items read that, you know, we were a danger to our community, and it’s, like, huh? You guys left the bars open. I closed on my own with my own decision making from the facts that I can see in front of me,” D’Esposito said.

The Florida Department of Health has said several COVID-19 cases were linked to the bar, as well as several others in the UCF area.

“You kind of had to remove yourself from the situation and realize, ‘Hey, I could just be caught up in a mistake here, let’s allow this to play out,' and it played out the right way,” D’Esposito said.

In June, D’Espisito told News 6 that old photos that were taken last summer and recently reposted on social media that showed a packed bar with patrons taking shots were used as evidence in the case.

“The Suspended Licensee’s continued operation poses an immediate serious danger to the public health, safety, or welfare due to the dangers associated with COVID-19,” the DBPR wrote in an emergency order last month.

Attached to the order were the year-old pictures.

D’Espisito said at the time that he was working to correct the misinformation.

“Those are photos from July 2019. We completely disagree with the statements being made and we are diligently working to prove that the information was incorrect. We also closed June 9th by choice due to the raise in cases in the UCF community and our concerns with safety,” he said.

The DBPR claimed that 13 employees and 28 patrons of Knight’s Pub tested positive for COVID-19.

Though Knight’s Pub has its license back, it still won’t be able to operate anytime soon. The state ordered that all bars stop serving alcohol for on-site consumption late last month.

The DBPR said that since June 23, their agency has inspected more than 15,000 restaurants and bars.

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter and go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

About the Authors: