With the Super Bowl on the horizon, here’s how Tampa handled its first weekend of mandatory masks


Last week, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor issued an executive order calling for masks to be worn outdoors in the city’s entertainment districts. Save for some street preachers, a few drunken revelers on outdoor patios and folks in pirate cosplay, folks in Ybor City last Saturday night from 8 p.m. to midnight seemed to comply.

The new executive order runs through Feb. 13 and supplements existing city and county ordinances which strictly prohibit not wearing masks while standing (ie: on dance floors). Under existing orders, the only time face masks may not be worn is when seated to eat or drink.

Castor’s new order covers “Event Zones,” like Raymond James Stadium, all of University of Tampa, Armature Works and Tampa’s Riverwalk area. It also covers hotspots like the SoHo strip, the Ybor City historic district, the central business district, and the Channel District.

While violators will face a civil infraction, which carries up to a $500 fine, Castor’s announcement did not specify how the executive order will be enforced. And while the arrival of the order signals the city’s desire to host a Super Bowl safely, the mayor has said that the city is more focused on education when it comes to seeing the mask mandates enforced. “We’re not looking at this from an enforcement viewpoint, but from an encouragement viewpoint,” Castor said at a Jan. 25 press conference that left some locals scratching their heads and asking for stricter reinforcement and rhetoric.

When contacted last week about whether or not code enforcement would be out at local bars hosting Super Bowl watch parties, a spokesperson for the city reiterated the city’s focus on "education" over enforcement. And in new comments to the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan also defaulted to the city’s desire to educate before enforcing the mandate, adding that giving “a citation will be a last resort.”

“We’re just going to hope for the best and hope people comply,” Dugan added. But hope is a tricky thing.

Read more about whether or not "encouragement over enforcement" can survive Florida's cultural foundations here. —Ray Roa

01/30/2021 | Photos by Kimberly DeFalco