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At least a dozen downtown St. Pete bars fined more than once for violating COVID orders

Many are getting cited and fined for violating mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — 10 Tampa Bay obtained a list of repeat offenders from the City of St. Petersburg.

These are businesses that have violated the city's executive order relating to the coronavirus that requires mask wearing, social distancing, and only serving people when seated.

The majority of businesses are downtown bars with two citations. Below is the list 10 Tampa Bay received from city staff.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

Pete Boland is the owner of The Galley, which has been cited three times. He says it's frustrating because the citation, which comes in the mail, doesn't offer any details.

"I don’t even know who was the violator, what time of day it was, what the circumstance was or anything. We’ve got somebody who has a doctor’s note as well, so we don’t even know," explained Boland.

In June, he voluntarily shut down his restaurants when several employees tested positive. At the time, it took days to get a test, and waiting on results took at least a week.

Since then, Boland has put new measures in place such as purchasing an air scrubber, enhancing ventilation throughout the restaurant and the kitchen, encouraging testing for employees, and deep cleaning every night.

"There’s this assumption that all of us downtown are being reckless or don’t care about our patrons or our staff. I just don’t think that’s true at all," said Boland.

Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill is another business navigating serving patrons, keeping staff employed, and making the environment as safe as possible. 

"When you have 80 employees, we’re all trying to do the right thing. We all want to get through this. We’re struggling like everybody else. When people are drinking and having fun, it’s hard to obey all the rules, but we’re doing the best we can," said Mark Ferguson, who owns Ferg’s on Central Ave.

Ferguson says they have fenced off sections of their property so people stay with their parties rather than mingle throughout. He also requires temperature checks for employees and uses UV sanitizing lights when closed.

He, too, wishes the city citations were more detailed. Ferguson says he doesn't know which of his staff members weren't wearing a mask properly. He plans on fighting the citation in court.

A city spokesperson told 10 Tampa Bay the violations are complaint-based so the city gets a complaint, then they send a compliance officer to the site to check things out. Based on what they see, the officer may or may not issue a citation. Finally, the city's legal team determines if the business should also be fined.

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