Bar owners fire back at Orange County’s COVID Strike Team’s report

Some bars and nightclubs inspected over the weekend did not receive a passing grade from Orange County’s COVID-19 Strike Team.

Eight out of the 11 bars inspected were found not in compliance, the other three were undetermined.

FOX 35 got a copy of the report, which said some establishments were not practicing social distancing or following the mask mandate. Most of them lacked floor markings and safety signage. One of the main issues noticed was patrons packed around the bar.

“You have to hold yourself accountable and the people that are in the space as well,” said Devin Leonardi, Orlando resident.

“I definitely think the rules/precautions should be followed,” said Lexi Deese, Orlando resident.

Deese wants protocols in place but she understands how they can be challenging for a bar to enforce.

“Especially on a weekend night. If it’s busy, it’s harder, you’re dealing with behind the bar, this and that, so I think it’s harder to enforce,” Deese said.

“People are afraid to turn away business and things like that and that’s a hard thing to handle, but at the end of the day, it’s all about our safety and I think that takes priority,” Leonardi said.

FOX 35 spent the day trying to track down some of the owners of the bars and nightclubs that were found to not be in compliance.

The owner at Elixir wasn’t ready to give a statement, but said the strike team’s conclusion wasn’t fair. FOX 35 called several others but did not have luck getting through. However, the Orange Avenue Bar Group did respond. The group owns the Basement, Treehouse and Attic, two of which were found non-compliant. The owners disputed the report, saying:

“As an owner of bars and restaurants downtown for over a decade, I can attest to following all CDC guides in this horrific time. As the task force came in this past weekend; they not only got their temperature taken at the front door, they were offered sanitizer and a mask if they didn’t have one. The liquor industry is amongst one of the most regulated businesses.  It’s unfortunate that our industry in whole has been targeted and yet we are the ones that have taken the biggest loss. We adhere to the all the guidelines, and then some. The safety of our guests and staff are our number one priority.”

“You should definitely be taking precautions but at the same time, you can’t not live your life,” Deese said.

Most of the bars were also deemed non-compliant because the strike team says the bartenders were not wearing masks and the businesses didn’t have disinfectant on hand.