Operators of the Orange City card room have asked the city government for permission to allow bigger crowds of fortune seekers, but when city officials will act on the request is not clear — largely because of the coronavirus, which has closed the card room and changed the way the Orange City Council does business.
The Daytona Beach Kennel Club, which opened the poker club in Orange City in 2017 in a former theater in Marketplace Shopping Center, filed a request to eliminate a 297-card-room-seat limitation.
The city planning staff reported on the request Feb. 28, about three weeks before COVID-19 prompted the shutdown of businesses deemed nonessential in a national emergency.
The Orange City card room features tables for poker, a sports bar and a restaurant. Slot machines are not allowed.
The requested change would require a new conditional-use permit, meaning special permission to operate a business not specifically allowed in Orange City’s zoning law.
The Kennel Club had previously asked to increase the card room’s capacity to 500 people, the planning staff noted.
“After discussion with the applicant, they were still determining how they will reconfigure the interior floor plan to accommodate additional card-room seats. After further review, staff recommended to simply eliminate the limitation altogether,” the report reads.
Requests for zoning and land-use changes require the City Council to act in a quasi-judicial manner, similar to a court trying a civil case in which sworn testimony and evidence are presented to the City Council. The council, all seven members, weigh the case as jurors or judges and render a decision.
For now, however, quasi-judicial hearings are out of the question while the City Council follows the example of other local governing bodies and convenes “virtual meetings” with members linked via telephone and/or video.
Virtual meetings — unheard of two months ago — are part of the new normal during the coronavirus crisis, as social distancing has become a new public-health mandate.
The Orange City card room’s request was supposed to go before the City Council in April, but because the full governing body did not assemble as usual, the public hearing was postponed.
Orange City Development Services Director Becky Mendez said she does not know when zoning changes will be taken up by the City Council.
“I have no new information,” she told The Beacon.
Mendez also said she has not heard from the Daytona Beach Kennel Club about whether it intends to pursue the request, given the likely continuation of social distancing — staying at least 6 feet apart from others — and limiting the capacity of restaurants.
Bars, meanwhile, remain closed.
The Beacon could not reach Daytona Beach Kennel Club President Fred Guzman for comment.
The card room has been a revenue generator for Orange City. In the three years since it opened, the city coffers have received $317,687 from Florida’s Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund. Also, the business has yielded revenues for local government from sales taxes and electric-utility taxes.