Coronavirus Impact on South Florida Bars & Restaurants

When the world is running down, You make the best of what’s still around (The Police, Album: Zenyatta Mondatta 1980) however it’s getting harder and harder to breathe (Maroon 5,  Album: Songs About Jane, 2002) as new rules are imposed each day on an unsuspecting public, many of whom rely on an infrastructure of local bars and restaurants to keep their bodies and minds hydrated and entertained through thick and thin in good times and hard times.  In order to keep track of some of these changes, we have assembled a timeline of significant events affecting the livelihood of south Florida hospitality workers, bar and restaurant owners, event promoters and local musicians.  If we keep this updated, we will be able to more clearly see when things may return to normalcy once again. In the meantime, be safe, not sorry!

March 6, 2020: Ultra Music Festival in Miami was officially canceled.  Ticket holders were given the option of exchanging their passes for the 2021 or 2022 dates, causing great concern.  This was the same day as another major event, The 34th annual edition of South by Southwest in Austin, TX was also canceled.  Since both of these events would attract more than 25,000 attendees, it was not that surprising to hear about their cancellations in light of other conferences being canceled throughout the United States.

March 7, 2020: The City of Fort Lauderdale announced that it currently had no plans to cancel any events. The St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival and the inaugural home opener for Inter Miami CF, both of which were planned for Saturday, March 14, would continue to move forward as planned.

March 10, 2020: In collaboration with the Hibernians of Hollywood & the Community Redevelopment Agency, the City of Hollywood has announced the St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival in downtown Hollywood has officially been cancelled.

March 11, 2020: All large events planned for south Florida in the coming months are being reassessed by event organizers on a day by day basis. Local art festivals, food and wine festivals, concerts planned for the coming weeks are either canceled or postponed to a later date.  The City of Fort Lauderdale announces cancelation of their St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival making a 180 turnaround from their announcement just 4 days earlier.

March 12, 2020: Local restaurants make written statements about their commitment to increasing the amount of cleaning  they will be doing and implementing other measures to instill confidence in patrons.

March 13, 2020: After much publicity about social distancing, the public becomes hesitant on whether or not to go out to local bars and restaurants to eat, drink and enjoy local live music. Business drops significantly however some popular restaurants still reported long wait times. Many restaurants begin to promote food delivery as an alternative to dining in.

March 15, 2020: The city of Fort Lauderdale announced beach closures. The city will also require all bars and restaurants to close at 10 pm. In addition, all public gatherings of more than 250 will be prohibited with the exception of retail establishments, grocery stores, Broward County government, the Broward County School District, the North Broward Hospital District, and agencies of the state and federal government. Bars and restaurants must operate at no more than 50 percent of their allowed capacity with no more than 250 people total. Miami-Dade County followed suit with an 11pm closure rule while Miami-Beach announced beach closures and an 11pm curfew for their entertainment district.

March 16, 2020: West Palm Beach Mayor Keith A. James declared a State of Emergency to prepare for and respond to the threat of COVID-19. The City announced that previously cancelled large gatherings including Clematis by Night, Screen on the Green, GreenMarket and Sunday on the Waterfront through the end of March. The City also worked with producers of large-scale events to postpone, cancel or reschedule their event on City-owned property until further notice.  The State of Emergency declaration gives City administration the ability to establish curfews, implement emergency procurement procedures, make provisions for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing, among other abilities. No curfew has been announced for the City of West Palm Beach. In Boca Raton, The Funky Biscuit live music venue announces that they will be close their doors today and hope to re-open on May 1st.

March 17, 2020: Governor Ron DeSantis signs an executive order closing all bars and nightclubs for the next 30 days. The state is also enforcing a rule for groups on beaches of no more than 10 people.  Restaurants can remain open for now but must maintain a 6-foot distance between people and maintain a 50% capacity. Miami-Dade County as well as The Cities of Fort Lauderdale in Broward and Boca Raton in Palm Beach County went a step further and announced the closure of restaurant dining rooms, bars, taverns, clubs, nightclubs, gyms, banquet halls, cabarets, breweries, cafeterias, and any alcohol and food service with seating for more than 8 people. Restaurants will be limited to take-out and delivery services only.

March 19, 2020: City of Deerfield Beach announces additional closures, effective 10 PM, March 20, 2020, until April 17, 2020 of all bars, nightclubs, taverns, pubs, cocktail lounges, breweries, dance halls, movie theaters, halls for hire, auditoriums, bowling alleys, video arcades, and sports and entertainment facilities. Restaurants may continue operating for take-out and delivery only. All public gatherings with more than 10 persons are prohibited. Grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, retail stores, banks, credit unions, financial institutions, hardware stores, auto supply stores, hospitals, healthcare and medical facilities, pharmacies, drug stores, medical supply companies, land or facilities owned and managed by Broward County, the Broward County School Board, the North Broward Hospital District, the State of Florida, and the Federal Government, are exempt. 

March 20, 2020: Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber announced Friday that hotels, suite hotels, hotel units within apartment-hotels, hostels, dormitories, motels and temporary vacation/short term rentals should immediately shut down operations and vacate guests from their premises by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 23.  Miami-Dade county is considering expanding the same order county-wide. All Seminole Casinos voluntarily decided to temporarily close all Hotel and Casino operations throughout the state of Florida which include the following in South Florida: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood,  Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.

March 27, 2020: Cities across Broward County agree to issue orders for their residents to stay indoors unless they need to visit an essential business including food, gas, medicine or childcare. childcare facilities. Residents and visitors may also support restaurants offering drive-thru, delivery, and take-out services. Outdoor exercise is permitted in close proximity to homes as long as social distancing is observed. The City of Fort Lauderdale’s Emergency Declaration will take effect from Saturday, March 28, 2020 until April 16, 2020.

April 10, 2020: Broward County issues an order which mandates that the public wear facial coverings when visiting essential businesses. Additionally the order mandates that those workers at essential businesses that come in contact with the public must also wear facial coverings ie: face masks (non-surgical).

May 11, 2020: Restaurants in Palm Beach County are able to open their doors and allow inside dining up to 25% of capacity in addition to outdoor dining with tables distanced at least 6 feet apart.

May 18, 2020: Broward and Miami-Dade Counties join the rest of the state of Florida in an expanded Phase 1 as can be seen summarized in the chart below.  Unfortunately, many reports of crowded venues with little social distancing during previous week in Palm Beach County will either deter people from going out or increase the likelihood of more cases of Covid-19 in the weeks to come.

June 26, 2020: On this day, Piazza Italia was given a $15,000 fine for allowing customers to sit at high top tables pushed up against their bar. However, an Instagram video clearly showed a lack of social distancing observed as a nightclub atmosphere emerged on a previous night at this restaurant-bar. Code Compliance officers are also asking to see business licenses to determine if a place is really a restaurant or a bar. Other places shut down Friday night included Tommy Bahamas Marlins Bar, Noodles Panini, Original Fat Cats, Poorhouse, Lucky’s Tavern and Cafe del Mar.

July 2, 2020:  Broward county stops all restaurants from hosting customers for dine-in service or alcohol consumption between 12:01 a.m. and 5 a.m.

July 7, 2020: Miami Dade County Amendment No. 2 to Emergency Order 26-20 is amended to close banquet halls, both stand alone and incident to any hotel or other establishment; and ballrooms, both stand alone and incident to any hotel or other establishment; to require masks or facial coverings to be worn when inside gyms and fitness centers; to limit restaurants and cafeterias to outdoor service only for on-site consumption between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. each day, and require that such outdoor on-premises service cease at 10:00 p.m., but to provide that such establishments may operate their kitchens between the hours of 10:00 p.m. each night and 6:00 a.m. the next morning only for the purpose of providing delivery, pick-up, room service, or take out services; and to further impose a maximum daytime and overnight occupancy for short-term vacation rentals of up to a maximum of two persons per bedroom plus two additional persons per property not to exceed a maximum of ten persons, and to prohibit new rental agreements entered into except on a monthly basis.

July 8, 2020: Broward County Emergency Order 20-21 is amended to order all restaurants to close on-premises dining from 10pm till 5am.

July 15, 2020: Palm Beach County amended their order 2020-014 with several new restrictions including reduced hours for Alcohol and Food Service. No establishment permitted to serve food or alcohol for on-site consumption, whether indoor or outdoor, between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.

July 17, 2020: Effective at 11PM and until August 1, 2020, all of Broward County is under a curfew from 11PM to 5AM. Exemptions to the curfew include: active duty police, fire rescue, first responders, news media, delivery or transportation drivers, government employees, persons seeking emergency medical care and medical, health care and utility service personnel. Also exempt are individuals traveling to and from their place of employment, returning to their homes after commercial travel, and persons walking their pets within 250 feet of their residence.

August 5, 2020: Per a new executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, restaurant employees who get sick with the highly contagious disease will no longer have to produce negative tests to return to work. Instead they will need to pass a screening for symptoms such as fever, loss of smell, loss of taste or shortness of breath.

September 25, 2020: All restrictions related to operating hours of establishments lifted for Palm Beach County. Look for restaurants to stay open later and live music schedules to be revised to pre-pandemic hours at some locations.

September 28, 2020: Auditoriums, bingo parlors, comedy clubs, concert houses and playhouses in Palm Beach County are permitted to open at 50% capacity.  Adult entertainment/Strip clubs will be able to resume entertainment activities with certain restrictions.

September 30, 2020: Broward County emergency order 20-27  is issued after Governor De Santis announces all of Florida to enter Phase III allowing restaurants to open to 100 percent of their capacity while still maintaining social distancing rules.  Also, bars and nightclubs are permitted to reopen for the first time since the pandemic began. Read letter from the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale. 

October 16, 2020: Broward county announced that on-premise consumption of food and alcohol is now extended until midnight for all establishments.



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