Trump’s Mar-a-Lago warned over COVID-19 mask violations

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club’s failure to enforce a local mask ordinance at its New Year’s Eve bash has resulted in a warning but no fine or other punishment.

Palm Beach County sent a letter to the club’s manager, Bernd Lembcke, on Wednesday (Jan 13) telling him that future violations of the county’s coronavirus ordinance could result in fines of up to US$15,000 per violation. Video of the party posted online by Donald Trump Jr shows that few of the 500 guests wore masks as they crowded the dance floor while rapper Vanilla Ice, Beach Boys co-founder Mike Love and singer Taylor Dayne performed.

Todd Bonlarron, the county’s assistant administrator, said in the letter that while the club may have passed out masks to its guests, “there was a breakdown in enforcement of the mask orders that led to almost the entire room of guests being without masks.” He wrote that he is encouraged that Lembcke promised that the club will obey the ordinance going forward.

“Your acknowledgement and commitment to enforce these laws was evident in our visit,” he wrote. Palm Beach County has been hard hit by the virus, with more than 90,000 cases reported and nearly 2,000 deaths. It has a population of 1.5 million.

Lembcke and the Trump Organization did not respond to calls Thursday seeking comment.

Democratic State Rep Omari Hardy, who filed the complaint with the county, said it is “ludicrous” that the county didn’t substantially fine and temporarily shutdown Mar-a-Lago. He said the county’s decision tells Palm Beach County businesses they can get away with violating the mask ordinance, particularly if they are well-connected. He said the violation follows a pattern at Trump properties and the White House, where mask-wearing is not enforced.

Hardy said Mar-a-Lago’s management “needed to do the right thing, but it takes courage to go up to the boss’s son and tell him to put on a mask.” That failure endangered the staff and community, Hardy said.

Trump had been scheduled to attend the US$1,000-per-ticket party, but he left Mar-a-Lago a few hours before it began as he spent that weekend trying to overturn his election defeat to President-elect Joe Biden. His sons Don Jr. and Eric attended, along with his attorney Rudy Giuliani, Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is one of the president’s staunchest supporters.

“This is amazing. Vanilla Ice is playing the Mar-a-Lago New Years Eve party. As a child of the 90s you can’t fathom how awesome that is,” Donald Trump Jr wrote on a Facebook post that included a video of the party. The video showed tightly packed attendees bouncing and singing along as the rapper performed his decades-old hit Ice Ice Baby.

Last month, a Mar-a-Lago neighbor filed a complaint with the Town of Palm Beach challenging Trump’s possible move to the resort after he leaves office on Wednesday. When the town agreed in 1993 to convert the private residence into a club, his attorney said he would no longer live there. The town has said it will consider the complaint if Trump moves to the resort, which he made his official residence in 2019.

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