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Ocala

Ocala blesses ordinance shutting internet cafes amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Ocala City Council gave its backing Monday during an emergency meeting to a Marion County ordinance ordering the closure of all internet cafes and similar entertainment venues amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Councilmembers had considering adopting their own ordinance but decided that wasn’t necessary since the one adopted last week by Marion County commissioners covers the entire county and maintains a level of consistency.

The ordinance includes the possibility of $500 fines for those who ignore it. The measure is designed to be an extension of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent executive order shutting down bars, nightclubs and restaurant dining rooms.

In addition to internet cafes, the ordinance calls for the closure of arcades, gaming venues connected with horse tracks, bingo halls, bowling alleys, casinos, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, movie theaters, music and public entertainment venues and other similar recreational facilities. Hookah lounges, cigar bars and vaping lounges also are included with regards to on-site consumption of products. Those businesses can, however, allow their products to be sold for off-site consumption, much as restaurants still are allowed to sell takeout orders.

Drive-in theaters, like the one in Ocala where churches are holding services, aren’t included in the ordinance. Neither are businesses like retail stores, drug stores, grocery stores and minimarts.

The measure also requires that no person except a facility owner or no more than two of his or her representatives may be within or on the premises of the venues. No patrons, guests or additional employees or operators can be in the facilities.

The City Council practiced social distancing during its Monday morning meeting by conducting it via an online platform. Everyone involved in the meeting was at different location but was able to effectively participate and communicate with each other.

Photos in Ocala, Florida

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