Code enforcement officer ensures Miami Beach businesses follow COVID-19 guidelines

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - As city leaders across South Florida vow increased enforcement to try and slow the spread of COVID-19, Miami Beach Code Enforcement officers are out in full force to ensure local businesses comply with safety guidelines.

7News cameras captured Miami Beach Code Compliance officer Jorge Hernandez as he walked into a restaurant, Tuesday evening.

“How are you? Who’s in charge, and who owns the restaurant?” he asked an employee.

With cases of COVID-19 cases on the rise in South Florida, the city is stepping up efforts to make sure businesses are following the rules.

Hernandez took a 7News crew along for the ride.

Among the things he is looking for is making sure staff is practicing social distancing and ensuring customers do so as well.

While driving by the Trader Joe’s along West Avenue, Hernandez noticed the distance between the shoppers standing in line outside the supermarket.

“You see right here? This is a great example of having a six-foot distance, social distance,” he said.

Hernandez said his department receives about 10 to 15 of calls a day, and they go to check out all the businesses in question.

“The first thing I look at is the host, especially in a restaurant,” he said. “Does the host have a mask or any facial covering? The workers around? And, of course, every restaurant has a bar. Is there anybody actually at a bar? You’re not allowed to be at a bar.”

Hernandez went to the Sunset Harbour section of South Beach with the goal of getting businesses to understand the ins and outs of the new normal regulations.

He stops by a wide assortment of businesses on the job, including short-term rentals and wellness facilities.

During Tuesday’s rounds, it appeared most restaurants were following the regulations, including one that was recently closed for 24 hours due to code violations.

However, along the way, Hernandez encountered a restaurant that wasn’t exactly in compliance.

While everything looked fine inside Sardinia, he spotted diners sitting at a bar.

When a employee said they were six feet apart to have dinner, Hernandez replied, “But that’s a bar. Nobody can be at a bar.”

Hernandez then went over the regulations with the owner of Sardinia.

However, the violation wasn’t serious enough to close the restaurants.

“The owner of the restaurant immediately moved the actual customers to the table,” said Hernandez.

Businesses ordered closed by code enforcement are required to file paperwork with both the city and the county before they are allowed to reopen.

“We’re ambassadors to the city, and our function is to educate,” said Hernandez. “All the businesses, all the residents. That’s what we’re here for: to educate them.”

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