Local Players, Employees React To Internet Cafe Ban

Apr 10, 2013

The following is a reporter's log from WJCT senior staff reporter Kevin Meerschaert, detailing his experience visiting two internet cafes after Governor Rick Scott signed a bill to close those establishments in the state.

Only a few minutes after news got out that Governor Rick Scott had signed the bill, about a half dozen women were walking out of the Hardwired Internet Cafe on the Southbank Riverwalk in Downtown Jacksonville. One turned and locked the door. The sign that said the cafe was open 24-hours a day/7 days a week remained. 

The sign for the Hard Wired Internet cafe next to the Charthouse Restaurant on the Southbank Riverwalk.
Credit Kevin Meerschaert

None wanted to talk on tape. A sign posted on the door said the cafe was "temporarily closed."

Moments later, a patron who said his name was Ken tried to enter the closed cafe. He was peaking into the windows when I told him the Governor had signed the bill to close the Internet cafes.

Ken seemed a bit disappointed but added it may be a good things because he thought some of the more frequent patrons may have a gambling problem.

The final moments of Goldrush Sweepstakes before its doors are locked
Credit Kevin Meerschaert

A little later, at Goldrush Sweepstakes on Emerson Street, there were a few people inside still playing.

Management heard the Governor signed the ban, but also left enforcement up to local police officials.

A man called Ace works for  Number 1 Venue, one of the cafe's permit holders. He says its disappointing that many people will have to lose their jobs because something they had nothing to do with. He was noting the scandal  involving Allied Veterans of the World, that led to dozens of arrest and the resignation of Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll.

A new moments later, Ace makes a phone call - it ends with him telling the staff to lock the doors. 

In a statement e-mailed to WJCT News, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office responded to the news from the Governor's office.

"Prior to developing our strategy for enforcement, we will have to see the law and the elements of the offense.  We will enforce any criminal statutes as required by state law."