Miami Lakes has more than 60 restaurants, and earlier this week owners resumed serving patrons inside dining rooms that were closed for nearly two months during the height of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Today is a good day for the hospitality industry, which employs tens of thousands of people in Miami-Dade County,” Miami Lakes Mayor
Manny Cid, a partner in The Mayor’s Café in town, said on Aug. 25.
That’s when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced a loosening of restrictions he put on places where people gather, including restaurants, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The virus has strangled commerce in the country and Miami-Dade County remains the epicenter for the disease in Florida.
Since mid-March, when authorities began tracking the virus, there have been 155,418 COVID-19 cases in Miami-Dade County.
As of Aug. 28, there were 1,886 cases in Miami Lakes, and 2,372 county residents had died.
Patrons won’t see full dining rooms yet: Gimenez ordered that restauranteurs may only operate at 50% of their capacity.
“While we are heading in the right direction,” said Gimenez about falling hospitalization rates for COVID-19 cases, “we are not out of the woods.”
Gimenez said he consulted with local medical experts and The White House’s coronavirus task force before making his decision.
The maximum number of people allowed to be seated at tables, whether indoors or outside, where some restaurants have raised tents and tables to supplement service, is six.
Restaurants must operate HVAC systems with the fans on while people are inside and keep doors and windows open to circulate fresh air.
Guests will be required to wear masks until their food or drinks are served and while walking around a restaurant.
Bars will remain closed until further notice.
This is the second time the county has attempted a reopening; a state of emergency was announced on March 12 and dining spots were closed, except for takeout.
On May 18, restaurants could resume serving indoors, at 50 % capacity. But on July 7, the county banned indoor dining again.
At Cancun Grill in the Royal Oaks Shopping Plaza, a tent brightened with festive lights takes up much of the parking lot.
Martin Cardenas said his restaurant, at 15406 N.W. 77th Court, will continue with outside dining despite being able to serve diners in his air-conditioned space.
He said inside his 5,000 sq. ft. restaurant, there is not enough space since tables must be kept six feet apart.
Continuing with outdoor dining will allow him to operate at 50 % seating capacity.
“We’re happy with indoor service reopening, but it’s still not enough,” he said. “So we still need outdoor dining until we can go back to full capacity.”
Cardenas said he spent $65,000 on partitions, personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other items to comply with sanitation guidelines.
Cardenas, like others in the restaurant business, is hopeful that the threat from COVID-19 continues to decline.
“Of course we are happy to open once again,” said Jose Romero, manager at El Novillo Restaurant, at 15450 New Barn Road near Main Street. “We hope everything goes well…and that it’s the start of all restaurants being able to fully open.”
Cardenas has owned Cancun Grill for 30 years at the same location.
He said he hopes the county doesn’t order restaurants to shut their doors a third time.
“I lost a lot of money and can lose more if we close indoor dining again,” Cardenas said.