A bar in South Florida was overcome by droves of maskless patrons after reopening its doors for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 crippled the business, only to have officials close it down once again for violating pandemic guidelines, according to news reports.

The Wharf Fort Lauderdale was flooded with frustrated guests looking for a good time this weekend as customers celebrated, drank, and ignored the government-mandated social-distancing rules. This triggered county code officers to put an end to the once standard revelry, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“If they’re not making patrons wear masks, they’re leaving us no option other than to shut them down,” Broward Mayor Steve Geller said to the Sentinel.

“Our goal is not to shut down businesses. It’s to get compliance. If we have to shut down businesses that are intentionally violating our laws, maybe that will send a message. They have to obey our orders for the safety of the public.”

“It’s frightening,” County Commissioner Dale Holness said over the weekend regarding the bar. “It’s insane. I expect people to be more conscious of the effect this disease is having on our lives.”

On the bar’s much anticipated opening day, a nearby doctor said he walked by the neighborhood hangout around 9 p.m. on Friday and was aghast at the multitude of merrymakers seen without masks.

“As a doctor who has gone through this since March, it was disheartening. The place was packed, everybody was close together,” Dr. Ralph Levy told the Sun-Sentinel.

County officials stopped by the tavern three times on Saturday alone. Each time, the small business was cited for violating pandemic-related rules, according to local news.

“We were cited three different times in one day, at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” one of the bar owners said. 

They pointed out that The Wharf was letting patrons take a reasonable risk of entering without wearing face coverings and its bar did not install a Plexiglas divider at their own expense, the newspaper reported.

Although the officials merely demanded the bar close once again for 24 hours, the management of the establishment told the press it will not reopen again until it can do so normally and under their own rules.

The Wharf told their thirsty customers on Instagram Sunday: “Unfortunately, due to the statewide spike in cases and local regulations, we will be temporarily shutting down. We will reopen when we are able to provide the proper experience for you at our beautiful outdoor venue.”

One hostess at the bar who answered the phone on Sunday acknowledged that she was only asked to come into work to cancel all their reservations.

“With the restrictions in place, we are closing today,” she told the media.

“The young kids who went there were not worried about the virus spreading,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalissaid remarked about the crowd that supported the Wharf over the weekend. “The owners decided to just close down indefinitely. The operators did the right thing, and we appreciate that. It sends a message that we must all take personal responsibility for protecting one another. We shouldn’t rely on government to force closures.”

“People don’t just come here to eat,” co-owner Emilio Guerra explained to the Sun-Sentinel. “They don’t just come here to have a drink. They come here to enjoy the outdoors. They come to see their friends. People want to grab a drink and walk around. 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.”

“I don’t have an exact timeline for [reopening],” Guerra told the press. “Our goal is to work through this and work with the powers that be to get clear guidance and understanding as to how we are supposed to operate.”

As of Sunday, Broward County has issued 2,138 warnings and citations to struggling businesses that were allegedly caught violating the guidelines. Code officers discovered that 1,005 businesses were not regarding proper social-distancing protocols.

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