(SS) That restaurant with the big crowd and the servers not wearing masks can now be shut down and fined up to $15,000 for blowing off rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting Friday, businesses in Broward County caught breaking the rules will have 24 hours to come into compliance. Fines would start at $500 but increase to $15,000 for businesses that repeatedly fail to follow guidelines. Broward Mayor Dale Holness said there’s been an “alarming rise” in the number of coronavirus cases as businesses have reopened throughout the county.
“We know shutdown works,” Holness said. But as businesses reopened, some people are ignoring mask rules and other guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Holness said.
On Wednesday, Florida reported 5,511 new cases of coronavirus, a new daily record. In Broward, 473 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 12,217 as of Wednesday. A total of 400 people have died, one more since Tuesday. Broward County has seen as many as 506 new cases in one day, Holness said.
“If this continues, we’ll overrun our hospital system,” he said. “We know wearing a mask works. We must do everything we can to protect ourselves and stay healthy.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony urged business owners to start following the rules, or else.
“Businesses must comply,” he said. “We can’t afford to have this spread continue. This is something we will enforce. It is not law enforcement’s role or responsibility to shut down businesses. But the county has the authority. And we are obligated to make sure you’re in compliance.”
Holness urged residents to call the county’s 311 hotline to report restaurants and other businesses that are allowing in big crowds or not requiring workers to wear masks while serving customers and clients. “We’re at 50% capacity in restaurants,” Holness said.
Bars and clubs pretending to operate as restaurants will be shut down if caught, he added. Broward’s 311 hotline has already gotten 891 complaints in 10 days, Holness said. Callers can remain anonymous.
This past weekend, Fort Lauderdale relied on its own code rules to close down nine restaurants on Las Olas Boulevard and A1A for violating social distancing rules. The 24-hour shutdowns ended after the violations were corrected. But Broward’s order applies countywide and comes with much steeper fines along with the daylong shutdown.
“It’s a 24-hour shutdown — not forever,” Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said. “We try not to use a stick, but we need one. Sometimes people won’t listen until they realize this is deadly serious. And it is.”
Staff Writer Marc Freeman contributed to this report.