TAMPA, Fla. — As state officials consider reopening bars and breweries, a South Tampa restaurant saw a large crowd Friday night with people packed shoulder to shoulder to get inside, ignoring social distancing guidelines.
ABC Action News reporter Ryan Smith documented the scene around 11 p.m. Friday night. Videos and pictures show a long line outside Bar HWRD, located at 302 South Howard Avenue in Tampa.
On Sunday, someone filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. It read, “’Restaurant’ operating as a bar. Dj is present regularly. Capacity rules definitely not followed, nor is social distancing or patron mask-wearing.”
Large crowds outside South Tampa bar
Bar HWRD is licensed to serve food so the business is allowed to operate under the state’s current executive order. That order bans bars from serving customers on-site.
“Our top priority is to ensure a safe environment for our staff as well as our patrons upon reentry back into the community and workspace,” said Enrique De Jesus, partner at Bar HWRD. “Throughout reopening, we have strived to exceed all state and local requirements to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, there are additional protocols to manage third parties (patrons) behavior continuously while on the premises, however, we are still learning to improve these best practices and believe this will continue to evolve throughout the pandemic.”
De Jesus says Bar HWRD was not issued any citations for masks, social distancing or occupancy after a DBPR inspector visited on Saturday.
De Jesus invited ABC Action News to visit to see the safety measures in place firsthand.
This comes as the DBPR secretary announced Saturday that he plans on meeting with bar and brewery owners later this week to discuss how they can reopen businesses again safely.
Late last month, Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars, for the second time this year, in response to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
“Expanding opportunities for breweries, bars, and related establishments to reopen safely relies on a cooperative approach to shaping and sustaining a responsible path forward,” said Patrick Fargason, deputy communications director with DBPR. “Secretary Beshears is committed to having a constructive conversation in multiple communities throughout the state to welcome the perspective of these business owners in forming a reliable plan.”