Protesters plead for South Florida bars and nightclubs to reopen in Phase 2

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - As South Florida moved into Phase Two of reopening on Monday, some of those who have been left out took to the streets to make their voices heard.

Several bar and nightclub workers and owners held peaceful protests in Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, Monday.

“We need to work!” chanted the demonstrators in Fort Lauderdale.

They were out since 9 a.m. to call on Broward County Mayor Dale Holness to reopen their places of work so they can make money once again.

Some held signs reading, “My newborn needs to eat,” and “Phase 2 is for us 2.”

A sign at the Wynwood gathering read, “Bartenders matter! Closed 183 days. Why only us?”

The protesters said they are frustrated and in desperate need to get back to work, and that’s why they’re pushing local leaders to reconsider.

“We were all waiting for Phase Two,” said Hector Perez, a club DJ. “Phase Two is here, but you can’t leave us out.”

“It’s been terrible, man. A hundred and eighty-three days? I’ve never not had a job in my entire life,” said bartender Michael Cabrera. “For someone to pretty much tell me, ‘You can’t work,’ and it’s not easy getting a job right now.”

Both Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimemez and Broward County Mayor Dale Holness cited health concerns as their reason for keeping bars and nightclubs closed for now.

“Here in Miami-Dade, I don’t think bars [reopening] is a good idea,” said Gimenez.

“If we open too much, too quick, then we go back to where we were before,” said Holness.

Despite having the green light from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, local leaders are taking their time to figure out what that would look like.

“I want to make sure that our contact tracing is in place and working before we do that,” said Gimenez.

Outdoor recreational activities like charter vessels will be able to operate again, but boats will have to maintain 50% capacity as guests participate in social distancing.

Bicycle rentals are also making their return during Phase 2.

But as of now, it’s a no for Miami-Dade’s renowned bars and nightlife.

“When you take the mask off, when you’re close together, that’s when we know that this virus is going to spread,” said Gimenez.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult for you to open and expect social distancing,” said Holness.

But protesters in Fort Lauderdale and Wynwood said they cannot afford to wait any longer.

Some of them are single moms who said they need to provide for their children.

“We’re not asking for money. We’re not asking for food,” said nightclub employee Lina Perez. “We’re just asking for them to open up our jobs so we could continue providing for our family.”

Hector Perez, a new father, attended the protest while holding his baby boy in his arms.

“We need an equal opportunity,” he said. “We have bills. My baby is a month old. People have been evicted. We’re all helping each other out. One by one, we have all helped each other out — we can’t do it anymore.”

“I think they are afraid. They are afraid because Miami is like a party city, so people cannot respect the rules, but it’s all dependent on the place, it’s dependent on the bars, the ownership and the management of the bars,” said Julio Cabrera with Cafe La Trova. “Everybody is not the same.”

Hours later, diners were seen out and about along Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

“We have to live our normal lives again. The economy needs us,” said Liz Matus, who was out celebrating her birthday.

“It feels fine. There’s not too many people out. We’re all social distancing,” said diner Carla Duncan.

Restaurants are now being allowed 100% capacity for outdoor dining.

7News cameras captured a busy dinner crowd in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.

As for schools, Phase 2 means local students are closer to returning to the classroom.

Holness said that, while he is looking at lifting other restrictions, his current focus is Broward’s students.

“When schools reopen, we’ve seen some spikes. That’s natural, because more people are gathering together, so the priority would be to get our schools reopened, look at that before we go to bars,” he said.

When campuses will reopen remains to be determined, but families in both counties will have the option to choose between online, in-person learning or a combination of both.

As of Monday, the COVID-19 positivity rate was hovering around 5% in Miami-Dade and just under 3% in Broward. Local leaders said they will continue to meet with industry leaders and health experts before they take the next step.

On Monday, the 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. curfew in Miami-Dade County got pushed back one hour to 11 p.m.

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