Violation leads to alcohol license suspension at downtown Orlando bars

Patrons were served while congregating at bar, DBPR says


ORLANDO, Fla. – Mathers Social Gathering, Shots and Joysticks have had their collective alcohol license suspended after a coronavirus social distancing violation at one of the locations.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced the license suspension on Tuesday.

According to an emergency order, one of the locations was operating as a bar and restaurant on Saturday and serving people who were congregated at the bar when they should have been seated at tables.

“Patrons were standing shoulder-to-shoulder while congregating at the bar area. Social distancing measures were not being enforced,” the order read.

“If they weren’t practicing social distancing and they didn’t have the appropriate license to operate, then the state had the right to do exactly what they did,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Wednesday. “Our biggest concern for any business is to comply with the social distancing rules.”

It’s unclear whether the violation occurred at Mathers Social Gathering, Shots or Joysticks since the order only refers to the violator as “the licensee.”

The owner of Shots said he checked surveillance footage and the violation did not occur at his bar.

Joysticks posted on its social media pages on June 26 that it would be closing due to the state mandate then posted again Tuesday evening notifying the public once again that it had been closed.

Though all three bars are independently owned, they share a liquor license.

Bars were shut down in mid-March as all non-essential businesses were closed to stop the spread of COVID-19, then they were allowed to reopen in early June when Florida entered phase two.

Weeks later, the DBPR ordered that all bars stop serving alcohol for on-site consumption after a variety of complaints and even outbreaks were linked to bars and nightclubs.

“I have great sympathy for the bars that have been closed for months and months now, but if they’re going to open, the governor has to give them the OK on that,” Dyer said. “And if and when they do, they need to come up with appropriate ways to make sure they don’t contribute to the spread of the virus, which is still here, obviously.”

A bar near the University of Central Florida was the first to have its alcohol license suspended after multiple patrons and employees tested positive for COVID-19. Knight’s Pub has since had its license reinstated.

An adult entertainment club on Orange Blossom Trail also had its license suspended after DBPR said it continued to operate after managers were told multiple times that the club needed to shut down.

At this point, it’s unclear when bars across the state will reopen, although DBPR said it’s planning meetings with industry leaders to determine a way to allow bars, pubs and breweries to safely operate.

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