Miami-Dade restaurant community protesting Friday over indoor closures

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Restaurant owners and their employees can’t figure out why, as part of such a critical industry in Miami-Dade County, they are being singled out to to be forced to close a large part of their business. Absent, too, is what they say they haven’t been shown: critical data, evidence and science proving that indoor dining presents a risk of coronavirus transmission. Then, there’s the issue of gym businesses that received a compromise to remain open.

In Miami Beach, Local 10 saw people lifting weights in a gym. One guy helping another with weights had a mask on his chin. The guy lifting the weights? The mask was under his chin, which, after only one day, was already violating a mandatory mask order. That promise of wearing facial coverings at gyms was what allowed the last minute reprieve for gyms to stay open, but that same reprieve wasn’t extended to indoor restaurants.

“I’m not saying that I wouldn’t support it if the evidence was there, but i don’t support it the way that it happened,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

On Thursday, 25 city mayors formally disapproved of reclosing restaurants where Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez estimated people share airspace potentially unmasked.

“What (Gimenez) focused on is healthcare concepts that indoors is worse than outdoors and without a mask is worse than with a mask and presumably that’s happening in restaurants is what he thought,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said.

Absent of any real data, city mayors did their own sample one-day tracing.

Absent of any real data, city mayors in Miami-Dade County did their own sample one-day tracing. (WPLG)

The snapshot found that more than a third of COVID-19 responders were infected in hospitals, one in four in the workplace, also shopping, social gatherings, but no restaurants.

“I think it’s complicated to understand why you close a restaurant and leave a gym open,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert. “And if you can find a way to sanitize a gym, you most certainly can find a way to sanitize a restaurant.”

And therein lies the frustrations and fears of Thursday’s new reclosure for those who depend on and fuel South Florida’s restaurant business, one of the biggest industries in Miami-Dade.

"There are banquet halls, movie theaters, bowling alleys and all that also have to close because they are places where a large number of people gather," Gimenez said in his announcement.

Restaurants don’t have those kinds of numbers and they are not going to sit with this decision. There is a groundswell of blow back, which include online petitions and protests.

On Friday, a Support Miami Dade Restaurants socially distanced protest begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 2 p.m. in front of the American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Boulevard. Restauranteurs and employees are inviting everyone to stand with them and, of course, wear a mask.