Internet café reopens to test new laws

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A Jacksonville “Internet café” reopened only a few months after the Florida Legislature outlawed the strip-mall gaming centers, as a test case on how they can adapt to the new laws.

“We were told by the city that we opened at our own risk and that we would have bulls eyes on our backs,” Pete Miller, general manager of Pete’s Retreat Cyber Cafe on Normandy Boulevard told Larry Hannan of the St. Augustine Record.

In April, lawmakers passed a bill that banned Pete’s Retreat, as well as nearly 1,000 gaming centers. The new law restricted them from using slot-machine-like computer games.

At 6 p.m. Friday, Pete’s opened to about 70 people. On Monday, the number grew to 245. Miller told reporters that they have overhauled how the café operates to follow the new law; he also acknowledged that police might see it differently.

The new regulations leave it up to local officials to enforce the internet café ban.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office said it the Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office would have to decide if Pete’s Retreat is breaking the law.

The Sheriff’s Office told The Record that they were not aware of the reopening until Monday and is currently investigating if Pete’s activities are permitted.

St. Augustine State Sen. John Thrasher sponsored the ban and said if there is a loophole in the law, the 2014 Florida legislature will address it.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.