A St. Petersburg bar owner is taking the city to court over pandemic-related citations that he says cannot be enforced by the municipality.
The lawsuit was filed by Jeff Knight, who owns Knight Global, a company with multiple entertainment venues in downtown St. Pete including the Jannus Live concert venue, the Landing at Jannus bar, Ringside Cafe, Pelican Pub, MacDinton’s Irish Pub and Detroit Liquors.
Since late November, the establishments under Knight Global businesses have been cited by the city for violating Mayor Rick Kriseman’s mask mandate a total of 16 times — several of which accuse employees of failing to wear masks at work.
In the lawsuit, Knight argues that county courts do not have the authority to enforce ordinances issued by executive orders under state law.
“While it is apparent the city is attempting to convey authority on the County Court under its jurisdiction over ‘violations of municipal and county ordinances,’ such is not permitted by executive order,” the lawsuit states.
According to the executive order cited in the suit, violators are cited with a municipal ordinance violation, which carries fines from $100 up to $500 for each subsequent violation.
And the bars aren’t facing just fines. Knight claims city officials are threatening to revoke his establishments’ extended hours permits.
The most recent mandate states, “Violation of any provision of this order related to a permit may result in suspension or revocation of that permit. Such suspension or revocation may be appealed to the extent provided for by City Code or other applicable law.”
This is a move Knight says would be “the proverbial death knell” for its businesses, according to the suit, because such permits are required to operate after midnight.
Thus, Knight wants the court to issue a Writ of Prohibition directed at the county court, prohibiting any further judicial action on the citations issued on behalf of the executive order.
The suit states that Kriseman “does not enjoy the seemingly unbridled authority he attempts to wield.”