Sheriff says 40% of bars and 8% of restaurants in violation of Pinellas County COVID-19 ordinance

Coronavirus

PINELLAS COUNTY (WFLA) – Pinellas County leaders have been keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases across Tampa Bay.

“On October 30, we had 74 new cases. November 29, we had 234 cases. Our seven-day average continues to be 231 cases,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry A. Burton. “If we look at our percent positivity on October 30, it was 4.2%. On November 29 it was 8.4%,” he continued.

Burton explains the county ordinance remains in place, but says the community has become lax.

“We have taken our foot off the gas and we see a lot more patterns of people going back to normal patterns which we understand. Everybody is tired, everybody just ready to get back to normal, but we have a little ways to go and we are asking everyone’s renewed effort in trying to take these simple steps to keep us safe,” said Burton.

Under Pinellas County Ordinance 20-14:

  • Face coverings are required inside businesses when social distancing isn’t possible
  • At restaurants and bars, every employee must wear a face covering indoors or outdoors
  • People have to be seated to be served
  • All patrons need to wear a face covering indoors except when seated, dining, and practicing social distancing
  • Table and bar seating must be spaced out by at least six feet indoors and outdoors

During a three day period in November, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says law enforcement visited nearly 2,800 bars and restaurants across Pinellas County to see if compliance was an issue.

“40% of the bars and 8% of the restaurants were not in compliance,” said the sheriff. “The predominant violations of the county ordinance that we saw were staff not wearing face coverings, not appropriate social distancing and patrons not wearing face coverings,” he continued.

Sheriff Gualtieri feels there’s some confusion with the county’s ordinance and the local government’s ability to enforce it.

“There are a lot of people who are under the impression that the county ordinance doesn’t have any teeth because Governor DeSantis issued an order that said fines and penalties are suspended, but there is the rest of the sentence (saying) fines and penalties are suspended for individuals. Fines and penalties are not suspended for businesses,” said Sheriff Gualtieri. “If we have to go down that path, we can, we don’t want to. We need to businesses again to help us help you, to help the community. We are asking for the business owners especially the bar and restaurant owners to step up,” he continued.

Over the next few days, the sheriff says law enforcement officials will be passing out signs to be posted outside bars and restaurants reminding people the county ordinance remains in effect.

“After we distribute the signs and after we engage in the education campaign and this new and renewed ask, we are going to go back out again and we are going to do these checks again at these businesses throughout Pinellas County. Then, we are going to see where we have a problem. We are going to have a conversation with those that are not in compliance and if they don’t get in compliance, then we will consider where we go from there,” said Sheriff Gualtieri

Under the county’s ordinance, businesses that are not in compliance can face fines up to $500.

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