Sumter County has begun a crackdown on internet cafes with one in Lake Panasoffkee facing temporary closure.
Bradley Arnold told commissioners Tuesday night that violations were found at three cafes during inspections by code enforcement officers and the Sheriff’s Office. Commissioners also approved operating permits for five cafes.
Internet cafes, also known as adult arcades, skirt Florida gambling laws by offering cash or prizes for customers who play well on internet games.
Under a new county ordinance, the cafes must file for one-year, renewable operating permits. They also must meet standards that include hiring security guards, installing security systems and closing down between midnight and 8 a.m.
“If there’s anything egregious, we’ll be citing them for possible (permit) revocation,” Arnold said.
Lake Panasoffkee residents have been vocal about problems the cafes are causing in their area, including drug use, theft and loitering.
Fun Times Cafe, which operates in the former Lake Panasoffkee Moose Lodge, faces temporary closure until violations are corrected, Arnold said.
The cafe was cited for improper signage, inadequate lighting in the parking area and no criminal background checks available after March 14 and March 23 inspections. A complaint also was received that the cafe still advertises it is open 24 hours and a recreational vehicle also was parked outside.
At the Gold Rush Arcade, also in Lake Panasoffkee, citations included improper signage and a parking area not fully lighted. An inspection at 1 a.m. found the business closed in compliance with the county ordinance.
Good Time Cafe in Lady Lake was cited for no armed security on duty after 5 p.m.. improper signage and incomplete criminal background checks.
Arnold said 11 internet cafes have filed for operating permits and commissioners are reviewing and approving several at each meeting.
Commissioners approved permits for four cafes Tuesday night including Lady Dawg’s Cafe of Bushnell, IL Villagio of Lady Lake, Sunshine 10 of Lady Lake and Senior Center of Lady Lake.
Despite the crackdown, Lake Panasoffkee residents called for closing the cafes.
“All these cafes are trouble,” said Leonard Whittaker. “These cafes are not good for our county. Somebody’s got to wake up.”
But Audrey Williams of Lady Lake said IL Villagio provides a safe place to gather for entertainment and has no crime issues.
“I think it’s a wonderful place to go,” she said.