Restaurant owners gather in downtown Miami to protest Mayor Gimenez’s order to close dining rooms

MIAMI (WSVN) - Restaurateurs in Miami-Dade County are fighting for their right to serve after newly imposed restrictions.

Dozens of restaurant owners and employees gathered in front of the AmericanAirlines Arena located at 601 Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami, Friday.

The group is protesting Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to close the dining halls of all restaurants amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

They were heard chanting, “Let us work,” “It’s too hot to eat outside,” “No science, no closure” and other slogans demanding that their dining halls remain open.

Nick Sharp, the owner of Threefold Cafe, did not mince words.

“It’s moronic. It’s idiotic. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The protesters said the mayor is not making decisions based on science due to the limited number of contact tracing that has taken place in the state.

“It was a decision that was made in haste, definitely with no science backing it,” said Michell Sanchez, co-owner of Latin House. “There’s nothing tracking or tracing any type of infection to the actual restaurants themselves.”

They’re also upset the decision was made without consulting any city mayors.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez shares that sentiment.

While passing out masks in Allapattah on Friday, he said he spoke with Gimenez for the first time in days expressing those concerns.

“There has to be communication. You can’t make a decision of a magnitude that was made without communication,” said Suarez.

This message is similar to the one South Florida mayors delivered at a news conference on Thursday where they criticized Gimenez’s response to the spread of the virus when it comes to contact tracing.

Gimenez announced on Thursday that he signed a $14 million deal to bring an additional 250 contact tracers to Miami-Dade.

Restaurant owners are frustrated, however, because the decision to close dining halls came before contact tracers could confirm where the surge in cases stemmed from.

“You didn’t think about it. You didn’t consult with the people in your community. You didn’t consult with the city mayors,” said Sharp, “so then, of course, people get upset. Of course there’s backlash.”

In Broward County, restaurants remain open, albeit with limited indoor dining.

The county closed nearly two dozen restaurants for not following the rules and has cited dozens of others.

Restaurant owners in Miami-Dade said until there is proof their businesses are behind the surge, they should be allowed to stay open.

“We have done additional training to comply with the new guidelines, the new normal, and yet we’re getting closed down again,” said Alexander Ringleb, the owner of Burger Meister in Miami Beach.

The protesters also said they want Gimenez to hear what they have to say, to respond to their concerns and to give good reason for why he made the decision he made.

They added that they want their restaurants to be able to remain open as they have spent thousands of dollars to buy cleaning supplies and partitions for tables so that their patrons can eat safely.

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