Florida businessman critical of vaccine mandate reacts to governor’s special session announcement

‘I’m encouraging everybody to pray to make their decision,’ Joe Penovich says

A Central Florida business owner who has been outspoken in his criticism of President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandate is weighing in on Gov. Ron DeSantis’s announcement Thursday to hold a special legislative session aimed at preventing such mandates in Florida.

Joe Penovich — the co-owner of Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bars in Port Canaveral, Melbourne and Orlando, as well as Sunrise Marina and Obsession Fishing Charters — took to social media in September posting that he would not ask his 400-plus workers to get vaccinated.

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“I’m encouraging everybody to pray to make their decision. I gave them the opportunity in our business. I felt that’s what I was called to do,” Penovich said.

In his social media post, Penovich said “I believe God told me not to take this vaccine,” according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

Under the president’s planned executive order, businesses with 100 or more employees would be forced to require vaccinations for employees or those workers would have to submit to regular COVID-19 testing.

“Anybody who wants to get the vaccine, we’re certainly going to give them time off and assist them when they feel that might be the right decision for themselves,” said Penovich.

The state is already taking action to potentially fine those violating the governor’s vaccine passport law. The department of health sent News 6 a list last week of more than 100 entities across the state under review. It includes AdventHealth, Amway Center, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the Dr. Phillips Center, and others. Some we contacted sent back statements saying they didn’t even know they were under review.

The department of health did say just because they’re listed doesn’t mean they’re under violation yet.

Getting on that list is something Penovich isn’t going to chance with his employees.

“For their own reasons, whatever they may be, they don’t want to take this vaccine. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to back off on any of the guidelines as far as cleanliness, handwashing, distancing,” he said.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.