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The Wharf wasn’t alone. Thousands of businesses have been accused of violating COVID-19 rules

A trendy bar in downtown Fort Lauderdale took a beating in the public eye after allowing a pack of mask-less partiers last weekend. But thousands of other businesses have quietly drawn similar complaints, county records show.

Since June 1, code inspectors across Broward County’s 31 cities have fielded more than 15,000 complaints about businesses breaking safety rules aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

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Palm Beach County has received 8,652 complaints. And with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, many more are likely.

As of noon on Wednesday, code enforcers in Broward had issued 2,147 citations and warnings. Almost half — 1,022 — were for not following social distancing requirements. Some 3,446 were for poor sanitation, and 229 went to businesses that allowed more than 50% capacity.

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Another 5,283 complaints have been resolved, and 292 businesses are awaiting inspection, according to county records.

The Wharf Fort Lauderdale became a similar dashboard, which shows 76 citations and 145 warnings. But the dashboards are not always accurate.

For example, the Manor Complex, a gay-friendly club at 2345 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, was cited four times, according to Broward County’s dashboard.

A crowd gathers at the Wharf Fort Lauderdale last weekendt. Many of the partiers shunned masks. After being cited for violating pandemic protocols, the bar announced Sunday that it would shut down temporarily.
A crowd gathers at the Wharf Fort Lauderdale last weekendt. Many of the partiers shunned masks. After being cited for violating pandemic protocols, the bar announced Sunday that it would shut down temporarily.

In reality, the club was cited just once, and that was on Halloween night, county officials say.

“We got a citation for having too many people outside,” said Chris Conley, a manager at the Manor. “We got a $250 fine. That was the only citation we got.”

Conley said he checked the online dashboard after getting a call from a reporter and was surprised to see four citations listed, including one for not following sanitation protocols.

“We were never cited for sanitation issues,” he said. “I am in charge of making sure this place is COVID compliant. And I am OCD. Anyone who has been to our place knows we go way and above. They know it’s safe.”

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Greg Meyer, a spokesman for Broward County, said code enforcers are doing everything they can to ensure the public’s safety. “And they’re going to work through the holidays to make sure protocols are being followed. The county can’t afford to let its guard down and not continue with enforcement here.”

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“We do have code officers out all the time, even during holidays,” he said. “We’re going to be out there making sure people are kept safe.”

Paulino, the part owner at Areito Bar & Grill in Hollywood, said he wasn’t at all surprised to see county officials crack down on the Wharf.

“Nobody should be surprised,” he said. “[Code officers] pass by my place every weekend.”

He said he wasn’t sure whether he’ll see them this holiday weekend.

“They don’t let us know,” he said. But if they say they’ll be out, “then you should believe them.”

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan

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