The owner of this anti-mask bar in Florida was just arrested. The issue wasn’t masks

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Madeleine Marr
·2 min read
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Even at the height of the pandemic, patrons at the Westside Sports Bar and Lounge in West Melbourne didn’t wear masks.

They weren’t made to at this Central Florida establishment — which was allowed to stay open because it served food and operated as a restaurant. That’s because the owner banned them.

Gary Kirby famously said he didn’t believe in face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID; since there was no mask mandate in Brevard County, the place never got shut down.

Kirby’s only acknowledgment of the pandemic was hiring a security guard who checked temperatures at the door, where a sign reads, “Masks prohibited.”

There was also a limit on how many patrons could enjoy the watering hole, hovering at around 25 percent capacity inside.

Kirby did eventually get shut down, however. The Space Coast resident was arrested early Friday after two undercover cops with “covert recording devices” watched a “male revue” at Westside, according to Brevard County court records.

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The 32-year-old was charged with knowingly operating a strip show without a license, said a police report.

The show — dubbed “Men of Utopia”— violated the city’s adult entertainment code, said the complaint, because it featured lap and “straddle” dances, intentional touching and exposed male genitalia, according to the affidavit.

One of the bar’s more recent Facebook posts spouts a conspiracy theory about the pandemic and touts the freedom Floridians enjoy in the process: “When you’re desperately trying to pretend the entire world is under attack from an apocalyptic plague and Florida ruins it by letting everyone go on with their lives as normal.”

Kirby, who was out on $250 bond, admitted that he knew his actions were “wrong,” according to the arrest report, and almost canceled the strip show but decided against it.

On Monday, the bar was back open and operating as usual.