Miami Restaurants Can Reopen Indoor Dining on August 31

Miami-Dade restaurants have tried to stay afloat by offering al fresco dining during the pandemic.

Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Update: In a press conference, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced today, September 9th, that the nationwide curfew will be extended to 11pm from Monday, September 14th.

The past few months have proven to be a cruel roller coaster ride for restaurant owners in the Miami area, with government officials ordering restaurants to close, then open, and then close.

Now the hospitality industry has some good news.

Miami-Dade County’s Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced today that he will allow the Miami-Dade restaurant’s dining rooms to reopen to a 50 percent capacity on Monday, August 31st.

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Speaking at a Zoom press conference, Gimenez said he consulted with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and his own team of local medical advisors before giving the go-ahead.

Restaurants are allowed to reopen for dine-in service with the following restrictions:

  • Each table cannot have more than six guests
  • Guests must wear a mask when entering the restaurant and keep their masks on until the water is served. Guests who get up to use the toilet must wear a mask.
  • Air conditioning systems must remain switched on at all times and must not be set to automatic. In addition, restaurant windows and doors must remain open to increase the flow of fresh air.
  • No bar seating allowed.

The Mayor noted that the above restrictions are not suggestions; they are orders that are subject to enforcement. Restaurants that fail to comply will be fined and / or closed. The county’s New Normal guidelines remain in effect.

Gimenez continues to recommend restaurants use the outdoor space for seating, and advises that a restaurant can exceed 100 percent of its allowable occupancy by using outdoor tables in combination with adequate social distancing.

He said the 10 p.m. Miami-Dade curfew would remain in effect until at least Labor Day holiday weekend. “The curfew is supposed to limit socializing,” he said.

Bars are to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Gimenez said he has no plans to close beaches on Labor Day weekend – provided people adhere to social distancing requirements and wear masks.

In contrast to Gimenez’s May 14th order to reopen restaurants, which has encountered confusing opposition from the city’s mayors – including those in Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables – which appear to be on May 27th with a reopening date of May 31st To be on board in August.

In an earlier own press conference, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said the city will no longer enforce current orders – allowing restaurants to reopen immediately. “I’m asking my city employees, my departments, that we won’t enforce restaurant closings in the city of Hialeah, the county can do that,” said Hernandez.

Gimenez said if Hialeah City doesn’t enforce the order, the county will.

Peter Vauthy, owner of Red South Beach, was contacted by the New Times and said reopening dining rooms was the right move given the decline in local COVID-19 cases.

“I’m delighted that the Mayor of Miami-Dade made this decision. In retrospect, the shutdown of dining rooms was unnecessary and as long as the city and county enforce proper social distancing we should be able to get away from that point.”

Vauthy points out that the spike in COVID-19 cases was never directly linked to dining out, but the industry was scapegoated nonetheless.

“We were unfortunately singled out as the culprit when other venues were causing most of the COVID-19 problems,” Vauthy told the New Times.

Aniece Meinhold is cautiously optimistic about the new order from Gimenez. The co-owner of Phuc Yea tells the New Times that while she is happy to welcome guests back to her MiMo restaurant “Viet-Cajun”, she fears the uncertainty that will be in store for the next few months. “The hardest part for me was the constant changes and adjustments to the local and federal regulations and rules.”

Meinhold says the past few months have taken their toll on Phuc Yea and his staff. “Your employees want to come to work and have a certain degree of constancy. They want a stable working environment. I cannot guarantee them stability if we are suddenly confronted with a closure order again.”

With every reopening order, explains Meinhold, they have to train new people and retrain existing staff for new operating procedures. “This situation is extremely challenging for restaurant owners and employees,” she says.

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