JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The deadline for 15 Jacksonville internet cafes to shut down passed at 5 p.m. on Monday.
If the businesses did not comply, owners and operators were told they would face fines and possible arrests -- and that their businesses may be condemned.
“… It has been determined that this facility is operating without a valid and effective Certificate of Use and that it has or may have one or more Simulated Gambling Devices in operation,” the letter read. “In light of this determination, you shall have until 5:00 PM on June 17, 2019 to cease using or operating any Simulated Gambling Devices.”
Overstaying the deadline could be costly for the businesses, according to the letter: “…any person who is an owner, manager, supervisor, provider, producer, possessor or user may subject such individual or entity to civil penalties of up to $250 per Simulated Gambling Device illegally provided or operated, with each day and each Device constituting a separate violation.”
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The letter goes on to say “…properties that continue operating Simulated Gambling Devices after 5:00 PM on June 17, 2019 shall be declared to be unsafe … and may be condemned or otherwise terminated as a public nuisance, including termination of electrical utilities … continued occupancy beyond that time may subject any persons physically present inside such condemned structure to immediate arrest.”
The City of Jacksonville tells us six of the 23 businesses that got letters a week ago today turned out to have approved Certificates of Use (COUs), and thus would not be forced to close until later.
The city tells us two of the 23 businesses have appealed the decision, leaving 15 to shut down today by 5 p.m.
Action News Jax investigator Ryan Nelson visited a few locations slated for closure Monday. A woman working at the Dockside Game Room on Mayport said the business was one of two that appealed to stay open longer.
“Well, we filed an injunction and we’re trying to get a certificate of occupancy,” she said. “They won’t issue it.”
Nelson also visited the Winner’s Internet Cafe on Mayport. He and local arcade customer Mike Pronto walked up to the internet cafe around the same time this afternoon.
According to city records, The Winners Internet Cafe and the Dockside Game Room both got letters. The Ccty says the businesses did not have approved COUs.
The doors appeared to lock from the inside as Nelson approached the Winners Internet Cafe. Though Nelson knocked, and an operator appeared to be present, nobody came to the door.
“Man, it hurts my feelings because I hung around here, I live close by here,” said Pronto.
The city says it’s giving the 15 arcades 24 hours to get their personal belongings out. If the businesses aren’t cleared out by Wednesday, it says operators and possibly customers, could be arrested for trespassing by JSO.
By Wednesday, the city says the properties will be condemned.
The city tells Nelson businesses that have COUs will have until Feb. 1, 2020, to shut down operations.
The crackdown comes after the city passed a law in late May to close the businesses, saying there were more than 28,000 calls for service at about 90 simulated gambling businesses from January 2013 through September 2018.
Pronto says he’ll find entertainment somewhere else.
“I’ll go play bingo maybe,” said Pronto.
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