Miami restaurants take creative safety measures as they reopen

City of Miami, Miami Beach and Hialeah restaurants could resume eat-in dining on Wednesday

Restaurants in Miami, Miami Beach and Hialeah have been planning for this day for weeks. On Wednesday, they were finally able to reopen their dining areas for the first time since shutting amid the coronavirus outbreak.

MIAMI – Restaurants in Miami, Miami Beach and Hialeah have been planning for this day for weeks. On Wednesday, they were finally able to reopen their dining areas for the first time since shutting amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Today is a different day,” said Adam Meltzer, owner of The Daily Creative Food Co. on Biscayne Boulevard.

Meltzer said he’s lost business and staff, but he’s ready to start fresh.

Restaurants in those three large Miami-Dade cities are now allowed to open their dining areas at a 50 percent capacity.

Face coverings are required upon entry, though not while you’re seated at your table.

Parties are limited to four diners, unless they’re members of the same household, in which case it’s six.

Restaurant bars are closed, and reservations are recommended because of the reduced capacities.

“The reason we’re opening right now is to be able to give our jobs back to our employees,” said Alan Drummond, owner of Coyo Taco.

Over at the iconic Versailles Restaurant on SW 8th Street, management created a new position called a sanitation captain — an employee who makes sure surfaces are clean and that people are following the new rules.

“He goes by and sprays the tables, the handles, the entrances of the door every few minutes,” said manager Gabriella Valls.

The iconic Versailles Restaurant now has a "sanitation captain." Another eatery is using inflatable cupcakes to mark of where customers can and can't sit.

Meltzer is checking his employees’ temperatures at The Daily and asking them questions before they start their shift, like whether they are experiencing any symptoms that could be associated with COVID-19.

“We are also changing gloves every 30 minutes, washing hands every 30 minutes, so a lot of things we need to enforce here,” Meltzer said.

Meltzer also got creative with his layout to maintain the required, safe social distancing. If a table has a large inflatable cupcake on it, you are not allowed to sit there.

On Miami Beach, Ocean Drive has been closed for nearly two weeks to cars in order to give restaurants an opportunity to expand outdoor dining. Staff at Cantina Restaurant were using a portion of one southbound lane in order to safely distance their tables.

“We want our businesses to have a chance to survive this,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “And hopefully they will be able to endure this pandemic in a way that is economically viable.”

At Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami Beach, the dining room was open for the first time in more than two months.

“The last couple of months have been concerning, to say the least,” said Stiltsville owner and chef Jeff McInnis. “But we’re finally reopened. It’s a very exciting day for us.”

Miami has talked about doing something similar, but plans to close streets for outdoor dining still in the works, said Mayor Francis Suarez.

Despite the previous closure of onsite dining, restaurants in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood and Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road Mall appear to have mostly survived to see reopening day.

Timothy Schmand, executive director for the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District in Miami Beach, tells Local 10 News that only two of its restaurants appear to have closed as a result of COVID-19. There are a total of 41 restaurants, cafes, and ice cream shops on Lincoln Road (not including coffee shops). Of them, Schmand said 23 reopened Wednesday.

Kelly Penton, a spokeswoman for the Wynwood Business Improvement District, tells Local 10 News there are more than 60 restaurants in that Miami neighborhood, and the majority reopened Wednesday, with the exception of less than half a dozen. Of the restaurants, 85% were able to pivot to offer takeout and delivery during the crisis.

Miami Gardens is the last remaining major Miami-Dade city that has not reopened restaurant dining areas. Their mayor has said that won’t happen there until next week at the earliest.

Gyms and tattoos next?

As onsite dining gets underway, Miami’s mayor Suarez is talking about pressing the county to open gyms and tattoo parlors.

“We feel they meet the sanitary requirements,” he said.

On that matter, Miami Beach’s mayor Gelber says he’s deferring to infectious disease experts.

“If they say it’s time, then I would say it’s time,” he said.

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."