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Bars Across Tampa Bay Prepare For A Pandemic Era Super Bowl

Bar owners are hoping their customers will have fun while watching the game, and will take precautions to ensure they are complying with coronavirus guidelines.

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to play in a hometown Super Bowl Sunday, local bars are preparing for an increase in customers while trying to keep them safe.

In an attempt to keep local residents and tourists safe while celebrating the big game, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor signed an executive order last month requiring the use of face masks while outdoors in downtown Tampa and other entertainment areas in the city.

“We are incredibly excited to host a fun and safe Super Bowl here in Tampa—but we need everyone to do their part," Castor said in a statement. "We want fans to feel confident knowing that when they come out to celebrate Super Bowl LV, they can do so safely in a city that takes this pandemic seriously.

"In football terms, it’s simple—masks are the right defense. Don’t let COVID-19 intercept your ability to make unforgettable memories or keep your loved ones safe.”

Keith O’Connor, manager of Tampa’s Neighborhood Enhancement Division, said they’ll monitor bars this weekend to make sure they're obeying social distancing orders and city mask requirements.

“For us, it’s all hands on deck, which means about 40 code enforcement officers,” he said. “The county has partnered with us and will give us an additional 10-15 each night.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, some bars have faced fines for violating coronavirus restrictions. With that threat, along with the potential loss of their liquor licenses, bars will have to be vigilant this weekend.

Greg Mikurak owns the downtown St. Petersburg bar, Thirsty First. He says he hopes his customers have fun — but he’s not worried about running into problems with COVID-19 restrictions.

“You can't babysit every person. People need to heed their own warnings if you're comfortable with going out, and you're comfortable being around people, go out be around people,” he said.

“I mean, we want to get back to normal. I know I have different beliefs than some other people. So it's just to each their own. If you don't feel comfortable, don't go out.”

Mikurak said, so far this week, his bar has seen a lot of Kansas City Chiefs fans stop by, but everyone has been friendly ahead of Sunday’s game.

“You can see that Tampa Bay is a very accepting town. So it's not like when you go to some other stadiums, and they're throwing snowballs at you or anything like that, you're not going to see that here,” he said.

That kind of fun yet safe atmosphere will be important on a weekend that, while limited, could still provide a significant financial spark to local businesses that desperately need it.

“It's crucial to small businesses,” said Mikurak. “Missing all those big things where we used to do block parties for the entire street and everything, we'd love to get back that normality and bring that kind of stuff back.”

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Devonta Davis