WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — As small business owners struggle to make money during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite there being a state moratorium on evictions, the order doesn't apply to them.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis' eviction moratorium doesn't protect small businesses

  • Orange Co. Mayor: Non-essential proceedings shutdown until May 29

  • Demings said "no mechanism" until May 29 to enforce evictions

Owner of Crossfit Winter Garden Lee Lovette is holding workouts outdoors because his gym is still shut down — even after Florida has officially moved into Phase one of reopening.

“There’s businesses like us, gyms that are clumped in with Globo gyms and things like that that the governor’s a little hesitant to reopen, hence why we missed phase one, and he’s going to reevaluate in phase two, but the pushes us out two months of being closed,” Lovette said.

Even with these adapted workouts, Lovette says he’s still lost a good chunk of his business with the loss of a physical location.

“Yeah we’re about 30% down,” he said.

Lovette says this is why he hasn’t been able to pay rent — something he says he tried to tell his landlord.

“If we get shutdown, we don’t have an income, we can’t pay the bills, we want to get ahead of this,” Lovette said.

But he says his landlord isn’t budging.

Lovette says he got this letter warning of quote, “further action to obtain the balance owed” if he doesn’t pay up.

But Lovette says until they can reopen, they can’t come up with the money.

“You can’t evict someone that’s been shut down. It’s frustrating, plain and simple. It’s frustrating,” he said.

Lovette’s landlord is well within their rights though. State Rep. Anna Eskamani says the governor’s moratorium on evictions doesn’t include business leases.

“They don’t have the same protection with the moratorium as residential folks do,” Rep. Eskamani said.

However, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says with non-essential court proceedings shutdown until May 29, business owners are effectively protected from being evicted.

“The Sheriff is not serving evictions, the clerk is not processing that paperwork… there really is no mechanism by which the government at this point, can enforce the eviction processes,” Demings said.

But once courts resume operations, Demings said they really can’t do anything.

Lovette says he wishes there was some way to be sure that he’ll still have a gym when they can get the rent money.

“It would just help it would give us peace of mind,” he said.

Eskamani said her office is requesting the governor expand the protections of his moratorium on evictions to small businesses and extend the moratorium’s time.

But if the governor doesn’t act on that request, as soon as the courthouse doors open to the public again, the eviction notices can move forward again.

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