By Alexis Shulman
Tampa nightclubs and bars including Tangra Nightclub, Club Prana, MacDinton’s Soho, Ybor Cigars Plus, 7th and Grove, and the Ritz are currently under review for breaking Center of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Some have already received their punishment, and others are still awaiting theirs.
Once the coronavirus hit the U.S., the restaurant industry was severely affected and planning for the future was not easy. Within that industry, the bars and nightclubs also had to come up with a plan on what to do. Like restaurants, sports bars and nightclubs can have socially distant tables, but it is a type of event that holds a lot of standing people jumping from table to table, socializing, drinking alcohol, and eating. Not to mention the long, crowded lines as guests wait to enter.
With these considerations in mind, the Tampa night clubs have been told that they are not following these procedures.
After a conversation with attorney Luke Lirot, who represents Tangra Nightclub, Prana, and Ybor Cigars Plus said that this situation was “alluding and frustrating because there was no compelling research done by the city council.”
Lirot said that the city council immediately took the positions of the citations made by patrons because it is based on the position of the executive order. Therefore, the city council only had pictures and these citations to base their case off.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor Executive Order 2020-42 in Section 3 Part C states four important rules, 1. that there must be signs about wearing face coverings inside, 2. if the business has a public announcement system, announcements must be made reminding customers to put on their masks, 3. all employees need to wear a mask, and 4. make efforts to remind customers to put their mask back on.
Lirot explained that “these places of public assembly are challenging because people stand up and drink,” rather than sit down and drink like they would at a restaurant. Hence why customers’ masks might be off while moving around the club or bar.
Rule number four seems to be the one broken a lot. Citizens have taken pictures of people roaming around the club without masks on; hence why the club is getting in trouble.
The city council meeting for Tangra was “Unsuccessful and disappointing” according to Lirot. Although, the punishment could have been much worse. Tangra got lucky with only three days of closure, but it could have been thirty days with their liquor license suspended.
They would have still been open for those thirty days, but no alcohol could have been sold.
“Everything is all back up and running since we were shut down,” said Brandon, Tangra employee. All three floors are open, as they are still following the executive orders guidelines, as they were before.
Lirot also represents Ybor Cigars Plus and Club Prana. Ybor Cigar Plus got a similar retribution to Tangra only to be closed for three days. However, Club Prana is another beast to tackle. They will not be closed until April 5th, which was stated by the city council, this gives the club and Mr. Lirot time to evaluate.
Club Prana’s story is interesting because they closed down in March 2020 till September 2020, and bought over $25,000 dollars in equipment such as hand sanitizer, extra masks, air handler systems while making no revenue so that they could reopen. Even so, they have received seven citations since being open. Their discipline, that is still being evaluated, is having to close for seven days for the seven citations.
Other bars are attending the council meetings and anticipating their penalty, and are hopeful that they will not need to close down for 30 days.
A student at the University of Tampa says “I think if you are manifesting this many people into a single location, you are then going to be setting the standards for safety precautions surrounding COVID-19. If you aren’t willing to follow and enforce every rule under the guidelines to their expectations, then you just aren’t fit to be hosting the crowd sizes that Tangra and other clubs like it are trying to.”
It is clear that the effects of COVID-19 have globally affected the revenue for public business owners, and although many continue to try to follow the guidelines and find a successful niche in the industry, the problem of social gatherings in public places just may not be so easily solved. If bar and club owners continue to struggle following quarantine standards, the Tampa City council may find themselves bringing the hammer down harder on these businesses until there is a healthy medium achieved.