ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As we inch closer to New Year’s Eve, county leaders and business owners alike prepare for another holiday in which crowds could pose a problem.
On Tuesday, strike teams visited several businesses, including those that requested a visit as a precaution.
Aaron Dudek was among them. He’s the owner of The Lodge, The Woods and Burton’s in Thornton Park.
“We’re not doing anything different than we’ve been doing for months now, but it was good to hear them reinforce we’re doing the right thing,” he said.
Dudek’s sentiment is not shared by every business in the county.
On Dec. 4, Mayor Jerry Demings ordered his strike teams to begin fining businesses not in compliance, with penalties ranging from a couple hundred dollars up to $15,000.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a few businesses refuse to comply and it’s time we hold them accountable,” Demings said at the time.
Since the fines went into effect, Tim Boldig, the deputy director for Orange County’s Community, Environmental & Development Services Department, told News 6 the strike teams issued nine fines and another 40 warnings.
“You always have a handful we continue to work with,” he said. “What we find is the fast in-and-out places such as your gas stations and convenience stores, those are the areas we see the most noncompliance.”
Boldig said strike teams will continue with unannounced visits as many ring in the new year.
Back at the Lodge, Dudek said New Year’s Eve will feel like just another night.
“We have a lot to lose so we aren’t going to break the rules,” he said. “It’s safe down here. It’s a lot safer hanging out at our establishment than a Thanksgiving dinner with 20 of your family members inside a house with no masks. We’re going to do our best to stay safe.”