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New report shows Orange County bars disregarding COVID-19 precautions amid increasing cases

Public complaints led strike teams to surprise bars

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Dancing with no social distancing. Unmasked bartenders taking shots. Long lines of crowds trying to get into bars and clubs. Pictures and videos sent in to Orange County’s Covid Complaint system all depicted these scenes, leading the county’s strike teams to surprise bars this weekend.

According to a newly released report Tuesday, Orange County detailed the violations at 11 bars and clubs, including three near UCF and eight in downtown Orlando.

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The strike teams visit businesses and look for things like social distancing measures, the enforcement of mask-wearing and increased sanitization. According to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, not many of those guidelines were being followed at any of the bars visited on Friday Saturday and Sunday.

“It was a deliberate decision that our compliance teams made to put a focus on some of the bars in the downtown area and that is primarily because of consumer complaints,” Mayor Deming said Tuesday. “They have community corporate responsibility to be part of the solution in keeping the number down in our community and not being the problem.”

The details of the report show the majority of the bars were not social distancing, had unmasked patrons and some not stocked with proper disinfectant or signage -- all in violation of Orange County’s Emergency Order signed on June 24.

Following this weekend, the mayor said the county is looking to see if they can use their local authority to enforce fines or penalties on bars who will continuously not comply.

“That one component that I had mentioned that we had not moved forward with and that’s to assess a penalty on businesses who are non compliant,” Demings said. “We are going to be going back and visiting those businesses and hopefully when we go back to revisit them they will be more compliant.”

However, according the mayor, local governments are restricted to what they can do because of Florida governor’s executive order.

“We have very little that we can do at the local level at this point, there is a possibility that we can enact some type of penalty on a business but we really don’t want to do that,” Demings said.

According to the County Attorney, "'The Governor’s Emergency Executive Order 20-244 preempts the County from adopting a COVID-19 emergency ordinance that “prevent[s] any individual from working or operating a business.' The Governor’s Order also prohibits the County from adopting a COVID-19 emergency order that limits a restaurant to less than 50% of its indoor capacity; restaurant capacity can be limited to less than 100% of its indoor capacity, but such limitation requires the County to quantify the economic impact and explain why the limitation is necessary for public health in the emergency order. Finally, the Governor’s Order ‘suspends the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals.’

All of these are potential limitations that the County has to consider when drafting any future curfew or capacity related orders."

The Knight’s Pub near UCF and Saddleup were both on the list of bars found to be violating COVID-19 safety guidelines.

On Tuesday, the managing partner of those clubs Michael D’Esposito sent a statement to News 6.

"At this time there is so many mixed messages and contradictions to what is to be understood that how is anyone suppose to move forward. If leaders want change then take action by calling a meeting for all of us to sit in a room and discuss. I’ll gladly gather all the owners of the venues on their ‘list’ and any others to join.

There’s two sides to every story, the right thing to do for the county and city to sit in a room with these venues (which happen to be some of the most popular in Orlando) and help work together towards a positive change. Not to threaten or continue to slander, but to come together in these times so their can be progression.

I’ve been pleading for that publicly since June, hopefully others can see that’s how change happens is by the meeting of minds."

Below is a breakdown of the bars visited by the strike teams and what they found:

Bar and inspection datePracticing social distancing?Following mandatory facial covering executive order?Maintaining checkpoints/floor markings to assist patrons in staying 6 feet apart?Signs posted reminding patrons, employees to wear masks, social distance and follow safety protocols?Notes
The Basement, 11/16/2020NoNoNoNo“The Basement , the Attic and The treehouse are owned by the same company and managed by Zachary, walked into bar none of bartenders had mask on requested that all staff wears masks and they complied right away . No disinfectant available to properly sanitize commonly touch areas , Daniel Bonilla from OCHD explained what type of product they should be using. Most of patrons cluster around bar almost impossible to maintain social distancing. Approximately 72 patrons inside this bar”
The Knight’s Pub, 11/15/2020NoNoNoNoArrived at Knights Pub at 12:30 a.m. place was packed with a line of patrons waiting to enter going around the building. Spoke with Colton manager on duty he advised that he was operating at 100 % with approximately 500 patrons. No walking room inside this club which is divide into 2 areas with an outdoor patio in between them. Several hand sanitizing stations thru out bars but no way to maintain social distancing.
Infyniti Knight Club, 11/15/2020“Only staff inside bar, spoke with Ness he advised not fully operational yet still training staff. Approximately 150 maximum capacity. Suggested to enforce masks for all staff and for customers not drinking or eating , hourly disinfection of commonly touch areas. ***Compliance undetermined due to just opening, to be revisited.”
Gilt Nightclub, 11/15/2020Bar just opened and only about 12 patrons inside , all staff wearing masks , Temperature checks to all patrons entering. Spoke with Jordan GM he advised that on Saturday nights they usually get @ 1000 customers thru the door maximum , they are currently operating at 75% capacity. ***Compliance undetermined due to just opening, to be revisited.
The Office Orlando, 11/15/2020NoNoNoNo“Spoke with Preston manager at the office , explained reason for visit , asked about safety procedures in placed to prevent the spread of covid 19 , no clear and concise plan in place , no disinfectant available for staff to properly sanitize commonly touch areas . Approximately 25 patrons inside bar all clustering around bar area. Inspection interrupted by drunk citizen , finish inspection outside bar .”
The Attic, 11/15/2020The Basement , the Attic and The treehouse are owned by the same company and managed by Zachary , advised that all staff wears masks . No disinfectant available to properly sanitize commonly touch areas , Daniel Bonilla from OCHD explained what type of product they should be using. Most of patrons cluster around bar almost impossible to maintain social distancing. No patrons inside this bar only staff. ***Compliance undetermined due to just opening, to be revisited.
The Treehouse, 11/15/2020NoNoNoNoThe Basement , the Attic and The treehouse are owned by the same company and managed by Zachary , walked into bar none of bartenders had mask on requested that all staff wears masks and they complied right away . No disinfectant available to properly sanitize commonly touch areas , Daniel Bonilla from OCHD explained what type of product they should be using. Most of patrons cluster around bar almost impossible to maintain social distancing. Approximately 22 patrons inside this bar
Celine, 11/15/2020NoNoNoBar/ club operating at 50% capacity according to Kevin , temperature checks for all patrons. No disinfectant available for staff to clean commonly touch areas , Daniel Bonilla for OCHD explained what products to look for. Suggested that all staff wears masks and to try to enforce masks when customers are not drinking.
Saddle Up, 11/14/2020NoNoSpoke with Robel explained reason for visit. Temperature check at front door – hand sanitizer. No disinfectant available to properly sanitize commonly touch areas. Cluster of customers around bar areas – no masks. Not operating at capacity lower number of customers. Not operating at capacity lower number of customers. Approximately 100 customers with a maximum capacity of 387. No way to properly maintain social distancing.
Elixir OrlandoNoNoNoSpoke with Barbie manager of Elixir , explained reason for visit ‚asked about safety procedures in place to prevent the spread of covid , no disinfectant available to clean counter tops and tables , Daniel Bonilla from OCHD explained the need to sanitize commonly touch areas. According to manager they are checking temp. of every patron walking into bar . Approximately 48 customers inside bar split between indoor and outdoor seating Maximum capacity is set at 148 according to manager but haven’t reached that point yet since beginning of pandemic. Officers suggested to try to spread customers more , enforce masks when people are moving around bar and keep with the temp checks.
The Knight’s Library, 11/15/2020Arrive at this bar as a call for aggravated battery occurred at this location, Spoke with Jamal manager for Knight Library He advised that they are operating at 50% today less than a 100 patrons inside bar split about 30 inside and the rest outside by the patio , none of the staff was wearing masks , no temperature checks at front door. Suggested that all staff wears masks , to try to enforce the social distancing , and to obtain proper cleaning supplies to disinfect commonly touch areas.

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