Tampa city council weighs punishments for Ybor bars accused of ignoring COVID rules

Tampa City Council members heard the cases of two more bars and nightclubs accused of repeatedly violating COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Purple Heart Bar Lounge and Grill, 7th & Grove, The Ritz Ybor and Club Prana were all scheduled to appear Monday. After The Ritz Ybor and Club Prana's were delayed until March, council members listened to the owners of Purple Heart defend his attempts to follow COVID-19 rules.

"All I ask is that you understand as a small business owner that has put my life savings into, my wife of 22 years had to deal with the stress that I had to bring home to my family of putting my life savings into this," said Purple Heart's owner. "To know that being shut down, it would domino effect us on losing everything. I ask you if you can dig deep down inside to understand where I'm coming from: I'm not a millionaire. I'm just trying to provide for my family."

Most of the accusations center around unmasked patrons crowding around the bar.

Tampa bars penalized for violating COVID-19 safety measures; more hearings to come

Tangra nightclub and Ybor Cigars Plus will both have to shut down for three days next week following what code enforcement officers said were repeated violations, including unmasked patrons crowded inside the establishments.

Businesses that violate the city's COVID-19 ordinances are given a warning and two citations before they have to appear for city council. They could have their alcohol permit suspended up to 30 days, depending on how council members view the seriousness of the violations.

"The mask orders that are in place, both the city and the county, they're not moving targets. They are orders that have been in place for some number of months now," said Susan Johnson-Valdez, an assistant city attorney. "We're here again as a last resort. We don't bring these cases after a first citation. In fact, this is the second citation and we've only brought these cases to you after repeated violations, at least two violations."

A decision on Purple Heart was delayed until the next full city council meeting in March after the six members present were split about whether the business violated the rules.

7th and Grove's owners, two of whom are doctors, pleaded with the council to go easy on them.

"We have seen the ramification of this virus first hand in our practices and understand that this is something not to be taken lightly," said Dr. Jamaris Glenn, one of the business's co-owners. "Suspending our liquor license would absolutely devastate our business and impact our employees and vendors."

The council determined the business did violate the rules, but decided not to suspend the owners' alcohol permit.

Last week, the council voted Tangra Nightclub and Ybor Cigars Plus would need to close their doors for three days this week.