Maskless Crowds Cause Florida Bar to Close Almost Immediately After It Reopened

At a Florida bar, the crowds disappeared just as fast as they came.

The Wharf Fort Lauderdale, a popular watering hole in the southern part of the state, became a hot spot for maskless patrons upon reopening on Friday for the first time since the pandemic began. Ironically, the establishment was shut back down almost instantly for pandemic-related violations.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Wharf Fort Lauderdale was flooded with barhopping partygoers over the weekend, who seemed to have a thirst for the pre-pandemic life. Reports claimed people were entirely ignoring protocols by dancing and not social distancing, which prompted county code offers to intervene.

“If they’re not making patrons wear masks, they’re leaving us no option other than to shut them down,” Broward Mayor Steve Geller told the newspaper. “They have to obey our orders for the safety of the public.”

According to the news outlet, the bar was visited three times on Saturday by county officials, and each time it was cited for not properly following COVID-19 protocols. Among the violations were allowing patrons to enter without masks, and not having Plexiglas dividers at the bar.

While the shutdown may be frustrating for owners and patrons, Geller told the Sun-Sentinel he hopes that enforcing the rules will be a wake-up call for those who are not being compliant.

“Our goal is not to shut down businesses — it’s to get compliance, he said. “If we have to shut down businesses that are intentionally violating our laws, maybe that will send a message.”

As for the bar, The Wharf denied any wrongdoing, insisting they did not allow anyone to enter the establishment without a mask. In fact, they said they had extras to hand out to patrons who may have arrived without one. What happened beyond that, they claim, was a refusal by customers to follow protocol.

“Once inside the open-air venue, guests chose to ignore the rules and congregated near the main bar despite over an acre of property where they could socially distance,” the bar said.

While the shutdown was only intended to be for 24 hours, the bar has fought back, stating it will not reopen until it can operate regularly.

“People want to grab a drink and walk around,” co-owner Emilio Guerra told the Sun-Sentinel. “We built the Wharf [for customers] to have a certain experience. And with the guidelines and regulations being forced on us, we unfortunately have to close down.”

What do you think about the bar’s choice to remain closed until they can reopen without restrictions? Are they making the right move, or biting off their nose to spite their face? We certainly feel for those in the hospitality industry who are being forced to make difficult decisions regarding their businesses!