Miami Beach restaurants impacted by COVID face new obstacles with 8 p.m. curfew

City orders restaurants in ‘High Impact Zone’ to suspend outdoor seating for certain hours

Restaurants that already suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic are now dealing with early shutdowns caused by rowdy spring break crowds.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Exactly one year ago, restaurants temporarily ceased indoor dining operations in Miami Beach, and it seems the restaurant industry in the city’s Entertainment District still can’t get a break.

With an 8 p.m. weekend curfew imposed in Miami Beach due to spring breakers causing havoc in the city and major causeways being closed for at least the next three weekends, the city’s restaurants are preparing to feel the brunt of the impact it will have on their local economy.

On Sunday, the Miami Beach Commission decided unanimously that the 8 p.m. curfew should be extended for the next three weekends and enforced Thursday through Sunday until at least April 12, which is the official end of spring break.

In the restaurant and hospitality industry, the nights spanning from Thursday through Sunday are of the most traffic and business — nights restaurants, which have already been impacted by COVID-19, desperately need the most.

The city of Miami Beach is also strongly urging all businesses in the Entertainment District to close voluntarily during the State of Emergency, in addition to the protocols and measures already in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, according to a memo released by the City of Miami Beach Commission on Sunday, from 7 p.m. through 6 a.m., all sidewalk café operations, including expanded outdoor restaurant seating, will be suspended in the “High Impact Zone” of South Beach. All sidewalk operators are directed to stack or remove tables and chairs no later than 8 p.m. each night.

However, the new measures do not affect every business in Miami Beach. The new ordinances only affect restaurants and businesses located in the “High Impact Zone,” which is located in the Entertainment District of South Beach. The “High Impact Zone” spans south to north from 5th to 16th Streets and west to east from Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to Ocean Drive.

Ray Schnitzer, the owner of the iconic 11th Street Diner located along 11th Street and Washington Avenue in South Beach, is already feeling the impact the new ordinance is causing. A year after he first shut down indoor dining at his restaurant due to COVID, now, he must cease outdoor dining operations every Thursday through Sunday evening.

“We’ve been going through COVID, we’ve gone through all of the protocols, we’ve done everything we need within the confines of our property to be able to survive here as a restaurant,” he says.

“Closing the causeways to try to control traffic, that’s OK. However, making the businesses close at 8 p.m., or having them stop taking restaurant people in after 7 — or even before 7 for us to be able to close, since we have outside seating — it’s just not right.”

According to Schnitzer, he believes the Miami Beach Police Department and the City of Miami Beach should take the safety management of the streets into their own hands while business owners should be allowed to assess the situation and take action — or not take action — themselves.

“The city of Miami Beach is supposed to be patrolling the streets, whether it’s for security or for COVID reasons. Now, they’re making us as a business shut down at 7 or 8, and that affects our bottom line. That takes money out of people’s pockets,” says Schnitzer.

“Since the start, we control our own security here and there has never been a problem. If there are ever small problems, we diffuse them,” he says. “Now, the City of Miami Beach and Miami Beach Police should do the same thing out there on the street. And they’re not. They’re putting it on the businesses, and that’s not right.”

“So, is it wrong? Absolutely. Am I unhappy about it? Absolutely.”

A manager at Sunny’s restaurant on Collins Avenue said he is tired of rowdy crowds but thinks the early closing time will be bad for the bottom line.

Last week the Clevelander, an Ocean Drive hotspot, temporarily shut its restaurant and bar citing safety concerns. Alex Tachmes, an attorney representing the company, said management is meeting to consider what to do next.

According to the statement released by the City of Miami Beach Commission, all other areas in Miami Beach are open for residents and visitors to patronize after the 8 p.m. curfew outside of the “High Impact Zone,” including Lincoln Road, South of Fifth, Sunset Harbour, Collins Park, 41 Street, and North Beach.

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.