A popular University of Central Florida student bar, The Knight’s Pub, has had its liquor license suspended after state authorities observed violations of COVID-19 safety guidelines and also tracked numerous COVID-19 cases to the bar.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations issued an emergency suspension Monday, as Orange County officials struggle to confront a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in the university student area, where numerous bars are located.
The order contends that state inspectors witnessed repeated violations at The Knight’s Pub in early June of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ reopening restrictions for bars, notably serving alcoholic beverages to patrons who were not taking seats at tables to attempt physical distancing from other patrons.
The order also states that contact tracing has connected at least 28 COVID-19 cases to the bar.
“The division has weighed the private and public interests, and finds that the least restrictive means of protecting the public health, safety, or welfare is the immediate suspension of the Suspended Licensee’s license to sell alcoholic beverages to the public. Otherwise, the Suspended Licensee will likely to continue to sell alcoholic beverages, thereby causing an ongoing threat to the public health, safety, and welfare,” the order declares.
Later Tuesday the owner of The Knights Pub, Michael D’Esposito, issued a statement denying the allegations, contending that he voluntarily closed the bar on June 8, two weeks before the license was suspended, and that he believes he and his bar are being scapegoated.
Also on Monday, Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County’s health officer with the Florida Department of Health, said that 152 coronavirus cases had been linked to a single UCF-area bar. He did not identify the bar, and there was no indication that it was The Knight’s Pub or any other specific establishment.
“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.” Pino said Monday.
Pino and other authorities, including Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, have pleaded with UCF students and other young people to take the virus outbreak more seriously and to wear masks, under the mask-wearing order Demings issued Thursday for everyone in public in Orange County.
Through Sunday, Orange County has registered 5,157 new cases of COVID-19, with five consecutive days over 200 new cases, when the county had never previously seen 200 new cases in a single day.