Tag Archives: Feature

Bar owners consider serving a lawsuit over state restrictions

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Dos Macs performs July 3 at the dockside bar at Bridge Tender Inn, 135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation allows consumption of alcoholic beverages at restaurants. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
The outdoor bar at the Drift In, 120 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, remains idle July 3 following a DBPR June 26 order prohibiting bars from selling alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

BRADENTON BEACH – Florida’s recent suspension of on-premises alcohol consumption at bars may have sparked retaliatory legal action.

Joe Cuervo, owner of the Drift In, 120 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, said July 2 that he and several other local bar owners, including the owners of the Anchor Inn in Holmes Beach and the Gator Lounge in Bradenton, were considering a class-action suit against the state so their businesses could resume operations.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued an emergency order June 26 prohibiting bars — establishments that derive more than 50% of gross revenue from selling alcoholic beverages — from providing alcohol for on-premises consumption to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The DBPR amended the order July 1 to allow bars licensed to sell food to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption in time for the July 4 weekend.

The Doctor’s Office, 5312 Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach, is the only cocktail bar on Anna Maria Island with a food service license. However,  owner Sean Murphy closed the Doctor’s Office for the holiday weekend, but was serving cocktails and food at Eat Here, 5315 Gulf Drive, while his original restaurant, Beach Bistro remained closed.

Five island bars — including the Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge, Drift In and Sports Lounge in Bradenton Beach and the Anchor Inn and D.Coy Ducks in Holmes Beach — lack food licenses, according to the DBPR’s website, www.myfloridalicense.com.

Tommy Knockers, 111 Seventh St. N., Bradenton Beach, applied for a food service license, but the DBPR had not approved the application as of July 3.

Meanwhile, the DBPR is allowing restaurants with licenses to serve cocktails, beer and wine.

“It’s unfair,” Cuervo said. “If they’re going to shut something down, let’s be fair. Let the restaurants serve their food, but shut the alcohol down.”

Cuervo argued drinking in bars is safer than ordering alcoholic beverages at a restaurant. He said most alcoholic beverages at restaurants are made by a bartender and brought to a customer by a waiter, whereas bars limit exposure by eliminating the middleman.

He said he retained an attorney, who told him they had a good case because of the state’s “discriminatory” policy differences between bars and restaurants.

While the prohibition of on-premises consumption continues, bars such as the Drift In resorted to take-out service to keep afloat. The establishments, however, have struggled on take-out service alone.

“It’s not even covering the cost of the employee coming in to serve the people,” Cuervo said. “I’m still losing money. I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we’re not going to stand by and let this happen again.”

He said his business stands no chance when, across the street, restaurants such as the Bridge Tender Inn, 135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, can serve alcoholic beverages, food and host live music.

“It’s just devastating,” Cuervo said. “We barely made it through the first shutdown. I don’t know how long I can hold out.”

Murphy said July 2 his Doctor’s Office also was “just squeaking by” due to the pandemic.

While the bar typically serves food and alcoholic beverages, Murphy said he has concerns that on-premises consumption of food and alcoholic beverages isn’t safe indoors at bars or restaurants given the recent spike in new coronavirus cases.

“We are not going to be seating anybody indoors for some time, until I see some sort of change,” he said.

Murphy called the state’s distinction between on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages at bars and restaurants arbitrary.

“DeSantis is an idiot,” he said. “The distinction is rather arbitrary. I think we have restaurants right now that are operating like bars and are crowding too many people inside and out.”

Regarding Cuervo’s proposed class-action lawsuit, Murphy said he was “watching the situation, but has not taken action.”

Bradenton Beach stands alone, no mask mandate, no comments

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Masked employees at Poppo’s Taqueria, 212C Pine Ave., Anna Maria, serve masked patrons July 3, in compliance with a city mandate for masks as the three-day Independence Day weekend began. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
A sign posted outside The Doctor’s Office bar in Holmes Beach informs patrons they must wear masks to enter. However, owner Sean Murphy opted to close the craft cocktail bar and serve its offerings at his restaurant, Eat Here. A city emergency ordinance requires people to wear face coverings inside businesses, as well as outdoors if they can’t maintain social distancing.

BRADENTON BEACH – Face masks may be mandatory for a while in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

But Bradenton Beach has not enacted such a policy.

Bradenton Beach city commissioners met June 30 to address extending a declaration of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when a face mask request came from resident Lynn Selander, who wrote a letter that was read by city clerk Terri Sanclemente during public comment.

“As a very concerned citizen of Bradenton Beach, of a certain age with underlying medical conditions, I am asking that you take decisive action … by requiring face masks to be worn in public,” Selander wrote. “Recommending is not enough.”

Manatee County commissioners, in June, voted to endorse a recommendation from the Florida Surgeon General to wear face coverings. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends masks.

Selander, wrote, “This is a very small thing we can all do that can mean the difference between life and death for ourselves and the vulnerable among us as our infection numbers continue to spike. This is not a political issue. It is a human issue. Please, step up and mandate the wearing of face coverings in public.”

Bradenton Beach commissioners did not address Selander’s request after hearing her letter, but extended the city’s state of emergency for another week.

Selander wasn’t alone in her hopes the city would adopt a face mask policy.

“I wish Bradenton Beach would follow suit,” Tampa-resident Kate Calton commented on a Facebook post about the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach mandating masks. “So many people indoors without masks!”

“I wonder why Bradenton Beach is not requiring masks like the other island cities,” Bradenton resident Linda Larson commented. “It is needed!”

However, Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ralph Cole told The Islander July 3 that the city shouldn’t go “above and beyond” safety recommendations from the state or the county.

“I think people should make their own decision on (wearing face masks),” Cole said. “I believe one of the fundamental freedoms in your life is to decide stuff like that. That’s just the way I was raised.”

Mayor John Chappie and Commissioners Jake Spooner, Marilyn Maro and Jan Vosburgh did not respond to phone calls July 3 from The Islander asking for their opinions on mandatory face masks.


In Anna Maria

Anna Maria city commissioners met July 2 to discuss extending the city’s emergency order requiring people to wear masks in some situations.

The order, which must be renewed every seven days, requires people to wear face coverings inside businesses except when eating or drinking or working in an office that maintains 6 feet of social distancing between employees.

The policy also established a $50 fine for violations.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told commissioners code enforcement officers had yet to issue a fine for a violation and that business owners had largely gained compliance from patrons.

Murphy added that he received mostly positive feedback from the public regarding the order, except for one man who claimed the order infringed on his rights.

Initially, instead of leaving the decision to extend the order to Murphy, commissioners had agreed to meet again to discuss potentially requiring people to wear masks in some outdoor situations.

However, Murphy recommended against extending the order outdoors.

“I don’t think we can impinge on someone’s personal rights that much as a government,” he said. “And I know we can’t enforce it.”

Commissioner Mark Short expressed concern with people gathering in queues and disregarding social distancing while waiting to enter a business. He suggested adding a recommendation to the order that people wear masks when in such situations.

Commissioners agreed with Short’s suggestion.

They also agreed to create educational signage to provide to local businesses, as well as request vacation rental owners and management to educate their guests about the city’s order upon checking in.

The commission reached a consensus to extend the order for seven days with the suggested changes.

Commissioners also agreed not to meet again to extend the order, instead authorizing Murphy to extend the order after individually gathering the commissioners’ opinions via email.


In Holmes Beach

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said the city’s emergency ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings in some situations had worked “great.”

“The community is so supportive of this directive,” Titsworth said July 2.

“I believe it has been successful,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer told The Islander July 2. “We’ve seen a lot more people wearing masks lately.”

The ordinance established a $250 fine for a first violation and a $500 fine for subsequent violations, but the city had issued no fines as of July 2.

“We haven’t had any violations,” Tokajer said. “And we haven’t had a lot of (verbal warnings) because it’s on the business owners to make contact with the people themselves, and they only call us if the people are noncompliant.”

“It has not been a struggle (to enforce the policy),” the chief continued.

Sean Murphy, the owner of a bar and two restaurants in Holmes Beach, expressed satisfaction with the city’s face mask policy.

“We had a relatively stable environment, where the residents of the island were being careful and wearing masks,” said Sean Murphy. “But recently we’ve had nonresidents flooding our businesses and streets, and they aren’t wearing masks and they’re bringing COVID with them.”

“The city has done a good job in requiring masks,” he continued. “Let’s hope the citizens have the good sense to follow up.”

Holmes Beach considers owner-resident parking permits

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Holmes Beach is considering revising its parking plan to include resident-only parking in a zone indicated in blue on the map. The yellow zone depicts areas where parking is unrestricted. Islander Courtesy Graphic
A family walks the path to the shoreline June 24 at the White Avenue beach access in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

HOLMES BEACH — He said it was a “work in progress.”

Now, progress is proceeding.

When Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer recommended the removal of about 1,100 on-street parking spaces in late April, commissioners agreed to the plan on Tokajer’s assurance it would be tweaked.

At a teleconferenced commission meeting June 23, Tokajer presented a draft ordinance for a “parking-by-permit-only zone.” If approved, residents and owners would obtain decals for parking 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in 619 of the 1,100 prohibited parking spots.

After 5 p.m., parking in the zone would open to the public.

“We do not think that our sunset crowd is our concern,” he said. “Plus, if you have a dinner party at your house, chances are that would be after 5 p.m.”

Tokajer’s effort to inventory and remove on-street parking was made at the behest of Mayor Judy Titsworth in the wake of coronavirus closures.

The move was meant to reduce congestion and trash near neighborhood beach accesses.

However, people from on and off the island were divided over the decision, which limited parking near publicly funded beaches and, some said, pushed traffic into Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria.

In letters to officials and on social media, some people complained the decision was made too quickly, with little input, while others commended the city action.

A similar permit parking ordinance was approved 3-2 by the commission in 2016, but was vetoed by then-Mayor Bob Johnson. Mayor Judy Titsworth said June 23 the new proposal was adapted from the 2016 ordinance.

Tokajer said a two-hour parking limit was removed from the original ordinance. Full-time residents with proof of residency would be provided a vehicle decal. Unlicensed golf carts would not require a permit.

Decals would be renewed annually, at a cost probably less than $20, according to Tokajer.

Vacation rental owners would be allowed two decals, not to be shared with renters, and permits would be nontransferable to other vehicles.

“If we see that some congestion is pushed into a different neighborhood and the remedy for that would be to make the area permit parking, it gives us the opportunity to do that as we move forward,” Tokajer said.

Former Commissioner Rick Hurst, who is running for another term in 2020, and has been opposed to the parking reduction, said he is OK with the plan.

He said, “It is moving in the right direction,” but he would like to see renewals every other year.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm said beach access parking in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach is limited, so Holmes Beach, as the largest city, carries “most of the burden.”

“This is a good solution toward mitigating the overall problem,” Kihm said of the plan, adding that as population grows and tourism increases, the island must work with the state and county to find solutions.

“When people bought in 20-30 years ago, these were residential neighborhoods,” he said. “We didn’t have the development. We didn’t have the amount of rental housing and we certainly didn’t have the number of people in the county.”

Commissioners reached consensus to move the permit parking plan to first reading and public hearing.

The next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, or by teleconference, with instructions on the city website at holmesbeachfl.org.

Census advocates: Celebrate America, be counted

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Did you know? On the first page in the 2020 census questionnaire, Question No. 1 asks: “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?” If the questionnaire went to a second home or vacation home, the answer is probably zero.

An estimated 2.5 million people lived in a newly independent nation July 4, 1776.

That’s according to the “facts-for-features” stats from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is conducting the decennial census, counting the 2020 population.

For the July 4 holiday, the bureau encourages people to “reflect on how our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Constitution the importance of statistics as a vital tool for measuring our people, places and economy” and respond to their census invitations.

The decennial census is used to determine legislative representation, allocate $675 billion in federal funding every year, guide decisions about schools, housing, transportation, health care and assistance and chart changes in a community.

A local push is focused on boosting participation from Anna Maria Island, where response rates thus far are below the county, state and nation.

The national self-response to the census was 61.7% as of June 26 and the state response rate was 58.8%. Manatee County’s response rate was 55.7%, but Anna Maria’s rate was 23.4%, Bradenton Beach’s 22.8% and Holmes Beach’s 33%.

Community advocates, including the Patterson Foundation, plan to encourage participation using social media networks, especially NextDoor, as well as outreach at libraries, city halls and through home associations and nonprofits.

Meanwhile, census takers will go door to door through Oct. 31 and the census bureau will mail reminders — about 1.3 million postcards were to be sent this week in communities required to use P.O. boxes, including Anna Maria.

Key to the local outreach is educating owners of vacation properties — either second homes or rental properties, according to Neal Dollar of the Census Bureau.

Owners of multiple homes might have responded to census invitations at their permanent address in another state but disregarded an invite sent to a second home.

But the invitation to the second home needs a response to the first question, which asks, “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”

Respondents would answer zero if the property is a second home or vacation rental, and their replies improve the community response rate, inform the Census Bureau about the property and also ensure each person appears in the decennial count only once.

“It’s critical, the census,” said Hannah Saeger Karnei of the Patterson Foundation, but also easy to complete.

In less than 10 minutes, respondents can impact their community for the next 10 years.

To participate in the census, go online to my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020.


Did you know?

The Census Act of 1790 established the concept of “usual residence,” which is the place where a person lives and sleeps most of the time.

Every census since has been based on the concept.

A “usual residence” is not always the same as a legal residence, voting residence or even the location where a person prefers to be counted.

COVID-19 cases surge in Florida, island numbers swell

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Some people wear masks at a June 23 county commission meeting as Jake Saur, Manatee County public safety director, presents information about COVID-19 to the board at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. Islander Courtesy Photo
Department of Health-Manatee nurses and support staff gear up June 25 for COVID-19 specimen collection at Colony Cove Mobile Home Park in Ellenton. Health officials recommend the use of face coverings and social distancing to help prevent the spread as positive cases increase countywide. Islander Photo: Courtesy DOH-Manatee

In this instance, safety does not lie in numbers.

Manatee County confirmed a new record 270 positive cases in one day June 26.

The previous daily county record of 166 positive cases was June 25, according to the Florida Department of Health.

From June 19-25, 12% of those tested in Manatee County tested positive.

As of June 25, 2,002 had tested positive of 34,662 people tested in the county, while Sarasota County reported 1,139 positive cases of 32,277 tested.

Of people who tested positive in Manatee, 1,103 were recovered, according to DOH-Manatee.

A total of 253 people had been hospitalized and 128 people have died due to the virus in Manatee.

As of June 28, eight people in Bradenton Beach, seven people in Holmes Beach and one person in Anna Maria tested positive compared with May 29, when one person in Bradenton Beach and one in Holmes Beach tested positive — out of 1,000 positive residents countywide.

Additionally, 17 nonresidents visiting the county tested positive as of June 28 compared with seven nonresidents at the end of May.

Nonresidents in the health statistics are people who test positive in Florida but reside in another state.

At a June 23 teleconferenced county commission meeting, county public safety director Jake Saur reported on COVID-19.

He said the recent increase in positive cases was not within long-term care facilities, as previously was the case.

As of June 25, 7.2% of positive cases were residents and employees of LTCF’s, compared with 26.5% of cases May 10.

He also said the increase was not due to increased testing, as testing has remained at about the same rate since June 1.

“This further suggests community spread is occurring and is the primary driver in the increase in positive cases,” Saur said.

He said wearing a mask remains one of the best ways to stop the spread, by inhibiting the transfer of droplets containing the virus.

The DOH-Manatee has distributed 300,000 masks, with 15 million more available to people that need them, Saur said.

The Manatee County Chamber of Commerce also is providing cloth face covers to businesses for employees at no charge until the supply of 30,000 is exhausted. Businesses do not need to be members to receive masks from the chamber.

The county considered implementing a face-covering mandate at a June 23 meeting, with the matter continued to June 24, but instead opted to support the Florida Surgeon General’s advisory, which states, “All individuals in Florida should wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible.”

On the island, the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach approved orders June 25 mandating face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained, with some exceptions.

Bradenton Beach had not implemented a mask plan as of press time for The Islander.


Know the virus, stop the spread

There is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 — COVID-19.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is spread:

  • Mainly from person-to-person.
  • Between people who are in close contact with one another — within about 6 feet.
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or may be inhaled.
  • The virus may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

Public health officials recommend people:

  • Wear a cloth face cover when in public, except children under the age of 2 and those who have breathing difficulties.
  • Wash hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even at home.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people outside the home.
  • Discard used tissues in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Be alert for symptoms.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Pandemic surges, 2 of 3 island cities mandate masks

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The marquee outside Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, June 26 asks people to “Wear a mask in public” for compliance with a June 25 emergency ordinance requiring face masks — indoors and outdoors — when social distancing can’t be maintained. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
Anna Maria resident Bob Carter addresses the city commission June 25, asking commissioners to authorize Mayor Dan Murphy to issue an order requiring people to wear face masks.

ANNA MARIA ISLAND — Hard decisions come to all levels of  leadership in a pandemic.

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees issued a public health advisory June 24 announcing people “should” wear face masks when social distancing can’t be maintained.

Add Gov. Ron DeSantis to the “should” proponents, who said at a June 26 news conference that wearing face masks should be voluntary, and that a statewide requirement to wear masks “probably would backfire.”

That same day, the Florida Department of Health reported a record-high 9,564 new cases of COVID-19. The number broke the state’s previous record of 8,816 cases in a single day, which was set the day before on June 25.

Manatee County commissioners also balked June 24 at the idea of mandating masks to slow the spread of the virus.

Instead of implementing a requirement, the county commission approved a statement, which endorsed Rivkees’ advisory and authorized a public health alert using the reverse 911 system to urge residents to adhere to the advisory.

The statement also voiced support for businesses that require patrons to wear masks inside their establishments, as well as those that uphold social distancing when masks are removed.

Without requirements from the state or county, the cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach independently adopted policies June 25 to make wearing face masks mandatory in many public situations.

“If wearing a mask would save a life, why would you not do it?” said Holmes Beach Commissioner Carol Soustek.

Holmes Beach commissioners voted unanimously for an emergency ordinance requiring people to wear face masks if they are inside a business, as well as outdoors if they can’t maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from people outside their family or group.

Employees and patrons of local businesses must wear face masks — covering their nose and mouth — inside the business. However, restaurant patrons can remove their masks to eat and drink after being seated.

People exempt from the mandate include children under 6 years old and people with medical conditions preventing them from safely wearing masks.

City code enforcement officers and Holmes Beach Police Department officers began enforcing the policy June 28. Officers will issue a violation order and fine if they do not gain compliance after a warning.

Violators will be fined $250 for a first offense and $500 for any subsequent violations.

Those who receive fines for violating the ordinance can appeal their penalties by appearing before a special magistrate.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said his officers would prioritize educating violators ahead of fining them.

He said fines would be a last resort for those people who refuse to comply with the policy, which is set to automatically expire Tuesday, Aug. 25, unless commissioners decide to extend the policy.

On June 26, HBPD and code officers delivered posters promoting compliance to businesses, as well as copies of the ordinance.

In Anna Maria, city commissioners voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Dan Murphy to issue an emergency executive order mandating people wear masks when inside local businesses to slow the coronavirus’ spread.

The order states that people must wear a “face covering in any indoor location” other than a residence.

People are not required to wear face masks when eating or drinking at a restaurant or if a mask would “cause impairment due to an existing health condition.”

People working alone, or in offices that maintain social distancing between employees, are exempt from the order. Children younger than 2 years old also are exempt.

“We need to do this,” Commission Chair Carol Carter said. “The visitors aren’t obeying any sort of rules. … We need to protect our residents.”

The order established a $50 fine for violating the order, but Murphy said the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office — which is contracted by the city for law enforcement — won’t provide enforcement for the order.

Instead, he said, code enforcement officers will issue fines.

“The object of this order is not to make money,” Murphy said. “It’s to gain compliance.”

Murphy said code enforcement officers will not respond to anonymous complaints, saying they experienced a backlog of inaccurate complaints when enforcing a prohibition on vacation rental activity.

The Anna Maria mask order went into effect June 27 and is set to expire Saturday, July 4, unless extended.

The city commission will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 2, to collect public feedback and consider renewing the order. Commissioners also will discuss whether to expand the order to the outdoors.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie did not respond to an email and phone call June 26 asking if the city had plans to discuss making masks mandatory.

The Holmes Beach and Anna Maria mandates can be viewed online at islander.org.


Some businesses close as new area COVID-19 cases spike

The recent spike in new COVID-19 cases sent some businesses back to square one.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced June 26 a statewide suspension of on-site alcohol consumption at bars.

The Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge announced June 26 on Facebook that the lodge had closed. The post read, “We will update you further as we receive more information. Thank you and please remain Moose Strong!”

The state had allowed bars, including the Moose Lodge, to reopen June 5 as a part of phase 2, but the number of new cases skyrocketed afterward.

“Based on recent increases in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, DBPR has taken action to suspend on-premises alcohol sales at bars,” DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said in news statement June 26.

Beshears said bars could sell alcoholic beverages in sealed containers for consumption off-premises and restaurants could continue to serve alcoholic beverages to diners.

However, the state suspended the sale of alcoholic beverages at bars that are licensed based on 50% of gross revenue from alcoholic beverages.

Bars weren’t the only businesses struggling with the pandemic.

The Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach, Holmes Beach, announced via its Facebook page June 22 that a member of the restaurant staff tested positive for COVID-19 despite following safety guidelines.

The restaurant reopened June 24, announcing on Facebook the remaining staff tested negative for the virus and, “at this time, we feel it is safe to reopen.”

Pizza Social, 308 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, announced June 24 that a worker preparing the restaurant for opening tested positive for the virus and, while the person hadn’t worked in the restaurant, the business closed temporarily.

“We will be disinfecting the restaurant and taking measures to ensure none of our other staff members test positive,” the announcement stated. “We thank you for your understanding and look forward to bringing you great pizza again soon. Be safe.”

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, also announced a closure June 24 via Facebook, citing “health concerns.”

“The museum will reopen as soon as possible,” the post stated. “Please stay safe and come back and visit us another time.”

— Ryan Paice





2 of 3 island cities mandate face coverings

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Islander reporter/photographer ChrisAnn Allen and son Aiden Esformes don masks for an outing at the beach in Holmes Beach.

The Holmes Beach City Commission met in the morning June 25 and voted to adopt an emergency order mandating face coverings in public when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Anna Maria commissioners followed suit at their June 25 evening meeting.

The HB order will go into effect at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28, and Anna Maria will begin enforcement at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 27.

The Holmes Beach order refers to public health guidelines and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states, “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain in order to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”

The Holmes Beach measure — the first of its kind in Manatee County — contains exceptions for ADA and some other circumstances, such as while eating and drinking in restaurants.

In Holmes Beach, if compliance is not achieved after a warning, the fine for the first offense will be $250.

The Holmes Beach ordinance is posted at www.holmesbeachfl.org.

Anna Maria’s emergency order is directed mostly at retail stores and restaurants, with a $50 fine for failure to comply. The city exempted restaurant customers while dining or drinking and office workers who practice social distancing.

Anna Maria commissioners plan to address outdoor mask requirements in the coming week.

For more on masks, read the July 1 edition of The Islander.

Coronavirus spike prompts little concern among islanders

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People lounge in the sands of Coquina Beach June 18 as the state registers a record-high 3,207 new cases of COVID-19 the same day. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
A graph shows a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in Florida within two weeks of the state entering phase 2 of reopening June 5. The state recorded 3,207 new cases on June 18 after reporting 1,305 new cases on June 5. At least 1,698 new cases were reported every day between June 11-June 18. Islander Courtesy Photo: Google

Manatee County — The first wave of COVID-19 is a tsunami.

Florida broke its single-day record for new coronavirus cases four times over seven days as the record escalated from 2,581 new cases June 13 to 3,822 June 19. More than 18,777 new cases were reported over the stretch.

The number of new cases reported in a single day never dropped below 1,758 during the seven-day period.

The surge comes after recording fewer than 1,000 new cases almost every day since the first case was confirmed in March. However, the last time the state reported less than 1,000 new cases in a single day was with 966 cases June 8.

Almost 90,000 positive cases had been identified in Florida as of June 19, with 3,103 deaths listed in association with the virus.

Ten Florida counties have reported more than Manatee County.

As of June 22, 1,977 Manatee County residents had contracted the virus and 126 deaths were associated with COVID-19.

Of the confirmed cases in the county, seven cases — including two nonresidents — had been identified on Anna Maria Island.

Four cases were reported in Bradenton Beach, and three were registered in Holmes Beach. No cases were identified in Anna Maria.

Early June 22, as The Islander went to press, the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach announced it had closed after a  “member of our team” tested positive for the virus.

A Facebook post said, “We feel this is the right decision to protect our staff and the public.”

Despite the surge in the state, many residents and visitors on Anna Maria Island weren’t too concerned with the pandemic.

“Here on the island, I’m not sure that we all took it as serious as the rest of the world,” Anna Maria resident Jim Sullivan said June 12. “And I haven’t heard of any consequences of that laissez-faire approach.”

Sullivan was holding a table for friends with his wife, Gale, at D.Coy Ducks Bar & Grille in the Island Shopping Center, 5410 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. The couple said they were happy to be able to socialize at a favorite local spot after bars reopened bars June 5.

“We hadn’t seen a lot of people in a while,” Sullivan said. “There were people we’d see regularly, but because of this coronavirus stuff, we didn’t run into them.”

Holmes Beach resident Richard “Boston” Burnes Jr., one of Sullivans’ friends, grabbed a beer and joined the table.

“Did I feel cooped up? Yeah, but, you know what? It was great,” Burns said. “I stayed home with the dog and got to watch TV.”

Another friend, Holmes Beach resident Anne Ricci, joined the table and said she was happy to gather with friends but remained cautious. She said she and her husband, Scott, refuse to dine indoors at restaurants due to their concerns with the virus.

“I’m a compromised specimen,” she said. “So, I’m not worried about it, but I am cautious. I carry around Lysol wipes wherever I go.”

Ricci said she was confident at the bar because she can trust friends to quarantine if they don’t feel well.

“I trust the others,” she said. “It’s the unknown that’s the scary thing.”

Sullivan agreed that he wasn’t concerned with the spread of the virus at his local watering holes.

“Us coming to a place like this and then worrying that we’re going to get infected? That’s not the biggest worry for us,” he said. “We’ve got an exclusive little group that’s remained healthy through it, so we’re not worried about gathering.”

While some people trust friends to limit the virus’ spread, others doubt the severity of the pandemic.

“I honestly believe it’s been blown out of proportion,” Melissa Wells said June 18 from a beach chair at Coquina Beach. “No one has ever explained to me how this is somehow worse than the flu. I’ve heard general things, but nothing’s convinced me otherwise.”

However, COVID-19 is not the flu.

Influenza was associated with more than 34,200 deaths in 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 in the United States has been associated with more than 121,000 deaths and counting since the first confirmed deaths in February, according to the CDC.

Of course, not everyone is doubtful of the virus’ potency.

Bradenton resident Ronnie Sterling said June 18 she was concerned with the spike in cases.

“It’s kind of scary,” she said. “But I think if people do what they’re supposed to do, we should be fine.”

Sterling, who was enjoying the scenery from a picnic table at Coquina Beach, said many beachgoers were respecting social distancing. However, she added, hardly any wore face masks.

The CDC says a mask is not necessary outdoors if social distancing is maintained, but recommends masks when social distancing is not possible and in public indoor spaces.

Some local governments, such as Tampa’s, have ordered mandatory masks for the public, but not Manatee County or its municipalities.

“I wish more people would,” Bradenton resident Dan White said June 18, as he soaked up the sun at Coquina. “I see people without masks sometimes and I don’t like that. The more people wear masks, the faster we can get rid of this thing.”

“People that don’t believe it’s for real should visit a hospital and see what’s going on,” he added. “People are dying every day.”

Bradenton Beach resident Doug Collums said he suffers from a respiratory illness, so he is wearing a mask in public.

“I’m not living in fear or anything, but I am cautious,” Collums said from his beach chair at Coquina. “But when you get out here, you kind of forget about COVID-19.”