Broward County officials threaten fines, closures for businesses violating coronavirus regulations; Galuppi’s continues to ignore regulations
Citing a rise in COVID-19 cases and the failure of many individuals and businesses to comply with social distancing and other preventative measures, Broward County officials are taking a tougher stance towards businesses violating existing pandemic regulations.
Under an emergency order issued Wednesday, businesses not in compliance can be shut down for a minimum of 24 hours. Fines of up to $15,000 for repeated violations can also be levied.
“Businesses must comply,” said Sheriff Gregory Tony at the county’s Wednesday press conference to announce the increased enforcement. “We can’t afford to continue to have this kind of spread here in the county.”
To help with enforcement, the county is encouraging residents to report violations at broward.org/coronavirus or by calling 954-357-9500. The number is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
As of Thursday morning according to the Florida Department of Health, there are 12,217 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Broward and 378 deaths.
In an email from Galuppi’s management to employees, which was obtained by The New Pelican, it was revealed that a patron or employee might have contracted COVID-19 at the restaurant. The email, sent on June 14, stated that the restaurant would perform enhanced sanitation measures and take further precautions to minimize exposure to employees and guests.
On June 9, an Americans For Trump event was held at Galuppi’s, which is located at the Pompano Beach Municipal Golf Course in a facility leased from the city.
The majority of attendees did not observe social distancing or wear face masks during the duration of the event.
Restaurant dining rooms can be used but the county mandates that patrons wear face masks when they are not actively consuming food and beverages. Patrons must observe social distancing even when they are seated.
Reached for comment, Galuppi’s declined to talk about possible medical issues with staff or customers and ended the phone call before more questions could be asked.
The New Pelican has previously reported on the failure by Galuppi’s management and ownership to follow business rules related to COVID-19. After those facts were published, Galuppi’s denied it had broken the rules.
At Tuesday’s Pompano Beach Commission meeting, Mayor Rex Hardin said masks need to be worn and that the city would be “more harsh” than it has been in regards to coronavirus enforcement. “Unfortunately, I think we are going to have to crack down.”
Among the municipalities covered by The New Pelican, Fort Lauderdale has the strictest enforcement currently in place.
In an email, Chaz Adams, Fort Lauderdale’s public affairs manager, wrote that 10 businesses were cited and shut down last weekend, including American Social, Café Ibiza, Piazza Italia and The Drunken Taco.
The shutdowns, wrote Adams, were the result of “social distancing not being complied with, patrons congregating at or around the bar, overcrowding, employees not wearing facial covering.”
After 24 hours, the businesses were allowed to reopen if the violations were addressed.
“After being re-inspected, code officers found that all of the businesses had made the necessary adjustments to come into compliance with the COVID-19 regulations and they were allowed to reopen,” wrote Adams.
Oakland Park issued notices of violations to eight short-term vacation rental properties, which were operating illegally during the pandemic.
In Wilton Manors, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, and Lighthouse Point, no citations have been issued and no businesses have been forced closed. Efforts have been limited to warnings and education.
Rebecca Medina Stewart, director of public affairs and marketing for Deerfield Beach, said 67 warnings have been issued there. “The biggest complaint we’re getting is too many people together.” She said that business owners are complying once the warnings have been issued.
Julio Davila, code compliance supervisor in Wilton Manors, said complaints through the county’s reporting hotline have been a little slow to reach him. A complaint, for instance, made about a restaurant on a Saturday doesn’t get to him until Monday – too late for officials to witness the supposed violation. But code officers, he said, still follow up on each call.
He added that most businesses are self-governing themselves.
“Most are doing a great job,” Davila said.