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Tampa to restaurants acting like bars: Knock it off or face fines and closure

Mayor Jane Castor's administration cracks down on businesses selling alcohol, which it attributes to recent surge of coronavirus cases.

TAMPA — Businesses with alcohol licenses were put on notice Wednesday by Mayor Jane Castor’s administration: enforce orders for masks and social distancing or face fines and possible suspension of their licenses.

City Attorney Gina Grimes sent a letter to about 100 businesses and various business groups, saying Tampa police and code enforcement officials would be conducting site inspections to ensure compliance with the mandatory mask and social distancing requirements laid out in state and local orders.

Related: Average deaths per week rises as Florida reports 112 coronavirus fatalities

“It has come to the attention of the city of Tampa that several restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol have been operating and functioning as bars, with blatant violations,” Grimes wrote.

If violations are found during inspections, business owners or operators would face second-degree misdemeanors, carrying a fine up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. The city will forward their findings to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation for possible suspension of alcohol licenses, Grimes wrote.

Castor said the city is aware of habitual offenders.

“Please note, we know who you are,” she said in a statement.

Castor said the recent rise in coronavirus cases can be linked to violations in settings where alcohol is being served without adherence to public health guidelines in place to contain the pandemic.

“We will not tolerate the businesses who are so carelessly rolling the dice on the health of their patrons,” Castor said. “It’s a shame that the recklessness of a few have put a strain on so many businesses who are going about reopening responsibly.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a photo of the Double Decker, which is currently closed due to the pandemic.

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