TAMPA — The first batch of bars and nightclubs called before City Council to answer for alleged violations of the city’s mask order turned sour for two Ybor City establishments Thursday.
Council members revoked the ability to serve alcohol from Tangra, 1611 E. 7th Ave, after several hours of testimony and discussion.
Thursday’s hearings were the first of three days of scheduled hearings for entertainment businesses that have been cited at least twice for violations of the city and county mask orders in December and January.
The suspensions were the first issued by the Council since the pandemic began in March. Nearly a dozen other establishments await hearings next week and early next month.
Council members found that Tangra had violated the city’s coronavirus restrictions in late December by allowing patrons to stand in largely unmasked crowds so thick that code inspectors couldn’t walk through them.
Although they had the right to suspend alcohol sales for up to 30 days, council members voted 4-2 to suspend Tangra’s alcohol beverage permit for three days next month.
“It will send a message to the community. We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” said John Dingfelder.
Council members Luis Viera and Guido Maniscalco voted against the penalty.
Tangra’s attorney, Luke Lirot, said the club had tried to comply with the mask order by closing two floors and having DJs make announcements for patrons to wear masks.
After being shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, another closure would be “overwhelmingly punitive,” Lirot said.
Club owner Chris Lenahan said getting bargoers who are drinking to wear masks was next to impossible.
But council member Charlie Miranda said the management could have been tougher.
“If they had said no more music, no more drinks until everyone puts on their masks, we wouldn’t be here right now,” said Miranda, who recently recovered from COVID-19.
Next, Ybor Cigars Plus, 1725 E. 7th Ave, also represented by Lirot, decided to settle with the city for a three-day suspension instead of arguing against the penalty in a hearing.
The council voted 5-1 to accept the settlement with Maniscalco voting no.
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