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South Beach nightclub owners want to reopen with new safety rules

Entrepreneurs want mayor to reassess coronavirus risk of SoBe nightlife

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Last year, Romain Zago’s business was doing so well he and his associates decided to open Myn-Tu restaurant, an extension of Mynt Lounge, a long-time South Beach night club. It was a dream come true. Hostesses paired tables at the restaurant with tables at the lounge.

Myn-Tu’s 80-seat dining room opened next door at the former location of the Rokbar nightclub. He hired dozens of people including executive chef Merryl Villacorta and sushi master Seiya Noborikawa, formerly of Nobu in Miami Beach and Sugarcane in Miami’s Midtown.

On Thursday, Zago said Miami-Dade County’s safety rules are threatening it all. He said about 200 of his employees haven’t had any income for about six months. He is among the nightclub industry leaders who are asking officials to develop a more lenient plan.

“We are going to fail and bankrupt the entire city. Those are thousands of jobs,” Zago said about Miami Beach’s economy.

Starting Monday, Florida is allowing all bars to reopen at 50% occupancy. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Wednesday bars and nightclubs will not be allowed to reopen until there is a coronavirus vaccine available.

A sign urging people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus is posted, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, near Art Deco hotels along Miami Beach. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A sign urging people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus is posted, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, near Art Deco hotels along Miami Beach. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Zago, known for his role in The Real Housewives of Miami, and Peter Thomas, known for his role in The Real Housewives of Atlanta, both agree that shutting down South Beach’s allure has many other repercussions aside from the economic irreparable damage.

“What that means for Miami Beach is that nobody is coming here,” Thomas said. “No one is coming here because this is a party city. South Beach is about partying.”

The International Nightlife Association, a member of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, warned that with the closure of nightclubs during the pandemic; there would be an increase in illegal large private parties.

Zago and Thomas are asking officials to allow nightclubs in Miami-Dade County to reopen at a reduced capacity and with additional safety rules such as improving air circulation and promoting social distancing.

“Slow us down. Make it 40%; make it 50%,” Zago said. “We will separate tables. We will put plexiglass like I did in the restaurant.”

Thomas, 58, said he battled COVID-19 for three weeks and survived. He said he understands the need for restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“People usually don’t understand those decisions until it hits home,” Thomas said. “It hit home with us and it hit hard.”

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FILE - In this Friday, June 12, 2020 file photo, a woman has blood drawn for COVID-19 antibody testing. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
FILE - In this Friday, June 12, 2020 file photo, a woman has blood drawn for COVID-19 antibody testing. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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