State to crack down on social distancing in bars after Knight’s Pub liquor license suspended due to COVID-19 outbreak

ORLANDO, Fla. — State officials are cracking down on social distancing in bars after one popular hangout near the University of Central Florida lost its liquor license.

The Knight’s Pub near the University of Central Florida has had its liquor license temporarily suspended after 13 of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced Monday.

Read: Florida COVID-19 cases top 100,000 with more than 5,000 now in Orange County

At least 28 patrons also tested positive after visiting the pub, according to the DBPR.

“We have linked 152 cases to that specific location,” said Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino. “That’s about 50% of the people who entered that bar.”

The restaurant was not following proper social distancing guidelines, which resulted in the pub’s alcoholic beverage vendor license being suspended until further notice, according to the emergency suspension order.

“If it’s here in the younger population, and we don’t take the steps that we need to take, it will jump into the other population at some point, inevitably,” Pino said.

In a written statement, Knight’s Pub owner Michael D’Esposito said: “It is important to take note that, since March 17, our pub was open for 3 days. During that time, we limited the number of customers, disinfected all surfaces and encouraged social distancing.”

D’Esposito said that, on June 7, he was contacted by one of his customers who had symptoms of COVID-19.

“We immediately decreased our staff on June 8, and then moved to completely shut down June 9,” he wrote. “We proactively arranged for our employees to be tested and disclosed our closure to the public.”

Read: Advocates say Florida nursing homes remain at high risk for COVID-19

Most bars in Florida reopened June 5 with guidelines including 50% capacity, and social distancing in place.

DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said he’s stepping up enforcement, and that alcohol, beverage and tobacco investigators will be out from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Those in violation will be issued a warning.

Last week, the DBPR started enlisting the help of some local sheriff’s offices. Orange County Sheriff’s Office John Mina said he got a call about increased enforcement Tuesday morning.

So far, Mina said, deputies “haven’t seen many complaints at all.”

Statewide, the DBPR said it has received 106 complaints since phase 2 began almost three weeks ago.

Beshears said his staff has already responded to those other businesses.

Click here to report a business not following COVID-19 protocols.

In two months, students are expected to return to classes at UCF.

They’ll be required to wear masks on campus, and complete COVID-19 training before they return in the fall.

UCF says a successful return will depend on robust testing, contact tracing and timely isolation of those on campus who are sick or exposed.

In Orange County, the average age of new coronavirus cases is about 29 years old.

Read the full suspension order below:

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

Karen Parks

Karen Parks, WFTV.com

Karen Parks is a reporter at WFTV.

Steve Barrett

Steve Barrett, WFTV.com

Reporter Steve Barrett returned to WFTV in mid-2017 after 18 months in the Twin Cities, where he worked as Vice President of Communications for an Artificial Intelligence software firm aligned with IBM.