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Jacksonville bars, restaurants face losing service licenses if they violate reopening guidelines

Mayor Lenny Curry says code enforcement agents will be visiting restaurants and bars to make sure they are following the phase two reopening guidelines.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Mayor Lenny Curry says code enforcement agents will be visiting restaurants and bars to make sure they are following the phase two reopening guidelines.

The city is making sure businesses follow capacity rules.

Curry said that while bars and restaurants are allowed to be open with certain restrictions, a special code enforcement task force will be stopping in more frequently to make sure these establishments are in compliance. The mayor said that the city is working with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since March, dozens of businesses on the First Coast have been reported for some violations. That includes many businesses across Jacksonville in recent weeks. Some had customers or staff test positive for COVID-19, but others did not.

Curry says he wants people to stay safe when returning to restaurants and bars.

“I encourage people to wear masks, practice social distancing and behave responsibly,” Curry said during a Wednesday news conference.

He says the city’s code enforcement division will be going out daily making sure bars and restaurants are following the state guidelines.

Fifty percent capacity is allowed inside restaurants, bars and pubs with unlimited outdoor seating while creating space for social distancing, according to Curry.

Businesses could face the risk of getting reported to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Between March 18 and June 22, the department received 71 complaints about bars and 52 complaints about restaurants across Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns Counties.

Citizens can report violations too—but now the mayor’s code enforcement staff may make those reports themselves.

The mayor urging businesses to follow the guidelines.

 “If it is not out of control, we will work with them," Curry said, "but where it’s flagrant or dangerous, as the governor said, Dance Party USA with people packed in and hanging from rafters, we will take action."

He also said patrons need to be responsible as well.

“If [people] are complaining that they’ve picked up the virus or that it’s being spread, well they need to practice personal responsibility,” Curry said.

“Here’s what we can do right now, going to a bar packed with people without a mask and talking about what could happen in August is not a right personal decision,” Curry added.

A Department of Business and Professional Regulation spokesperson says if a business does have a license suspended, it can be lifted if the location is no longer deemed a threat to public health.

Licensees served with an emergency suspension order can challenge the order through the court system.

RELATED: City code enforcement taskforce to crack down on Jacksonville businesses not in COVID-19 compliance

RELATED: Jacksonville Mayor says COVID-19 cases are up but hospitalizations remain low

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