Travel

What to Know About South Florida Businesses Reopening

From restaurants to beaches, here’s the latest.

Museum of Graffiti
The Museum of Graffiti is open (this photo was taken before COVID-19), and employees are now required to wear masks. | Museum of Graffiti
The Museum of Graffiti is open (this photo was taken before COVID-19), and employees are now required to wear masks. | Museum of Graffiti

During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been hard to keep all the rules and regulations straight. Certain counties have slowly begun to open up while others, right across the water, remain shut down. But this week, almost all of South Florida reopened its non-essential businesses, albeit with new restrictions and limited capacity. 
 
Even though restaurants and other businesses can open, not all are. When Palm Beach County allowed restaurants to reopen May 11, it gave owners only three days’ notice to hire back staff, train them in new protocols, sanitize the place, get disposable menus, and other “new normal” preparations. So many opted to wait.
 
“We wanted to take our time to train and make sure we were 100% ready to responsibly serve, so we delayed our opening a week,” says Batch owner Kevin Danilo, who operates locations in Delray and West Palm Beach along with its Brickell flagship. “Miami's mayor gave us two weeks notice, so we'll be opening the day we are allowed to.”
 
That day comes a full two weeks after Palm Beach County moved into Phase One, and a week after most of Miami-Dade opened. With three counties, more than 100 municipalities, and multiple cities beginning with the words “Miami,” “Palm Beach,” and “Coral,” who is opening what is probably the most confusing thing to hit South Florida since the butterfly ballot.
 
So if you’re looking to finally get that haircut, hit the gym, or just dine on something that doesn’t come with a plastic lid, here’s a quick primer on what’s opening up around the region -- and what to expect if you go there.

Restaurants

Restaurants opened May 18 in all three counties, but Miami’s largest municipalities -- Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Doral, and Key Biscayne -- are all waiting until after Memorial Day and opening on May 27. 

Most will be opening in 50% capacity inside, with unlimited seating outside provided they leave six feet between tables. City of Miami restaurants may reopen at 50% or 25%. “It’s unclear, could be either,” Danilo says. “We’re still waiting on further guidance.”
 
Still, many areas like Downtown Dadeland and Ocean Drive will be closing off their streets to allow for pedestrian access and increased outdoor dining capability. Brickell resident Jacqueline Coleman took advantage of the light US-1 rush hour traffic and dined at Pubbelly Sushi in Downtown Dadeland Monday, and noted the atmosphere to be especially relaxed.
 
“It was quiet, Pubbelly was really the only place open, but as the night went on it filled up,” she said. “We had people on tables on both sides, and the tables were full. I saw groups of friends with bottles of wine and sake.”
 
Her observations may indicate bottle service is back, but tables still have limitations. Groups are limited to four people, or six if they all live in the same household. Although how that will be enforced is anyone’s guess. Menus also must be single use or available via smartphone, utensils must be wrapped in napkins or disposable, and all food handling staff will be wearing masks and gloves -- which much be changed out every 30 minutes
 
Despite the new regulations, restaurateurs say business has been brisk so far. “I think there is definitely a good portion of the population that’s ready to get back and resume their normal life,” says Tap 42’s vice president of development Alex Rudolph. “This past weekend, in Boca Raton, we had a really nice crowd, and a lot of people who were ready to get back out and dine.”

Bars

Bars, on the other hand, are not included in any of the Phase One plans laid out by the state or counties. You may see names like Batch and Tap 42 and say, “Hey, that’s where I used to go for after-work beers and Jager shots. How are they open but Club Deuce is still closed?”
 
Much like the smoking regulations that give the Deuce its signature scent, places that serve full menus are technically considered “restaurants,” and allowed to open. Places whose food menus consist of five-year-old bags of Combos are not. Still, those restaurants are only allowed to use the bar for food service, and must maintain six-foot distancing.

Breweries

Breweries also sadly don’t fall under Phase One, and most will still be relegated to selling crowlers and growlers to-go from stands set up outside. The exceptions will be breweries that also offer full restaurants, but the experience there will be different too.
 
“We’ve had crazy protocols to open the brewery,” says Julian Siegel, co-owner of Tarpon River Brewing in Ft. Lauderdale, which offers a full restaurant and is open this week. “No back door entry, no access to the tasting room, temperature check station. And we’ve arranged the barrel room to have socially distanced, air-conditioned seating.”

Beaches

Though your newsfeed may be stacked with pictures of people frolicking on the beach throughout Florida, Dade and Broward beaches will be closed until at least May 26. Miami Beach has said it won’t open its beaches until June 1. Palm Beach County beaches opened Monday.

Somehow, the actual ocean was closed during Miami’s lockdown, where police boats typically used for intercepting large shipments of cocaine were chasing down recreational swimmers. Fortunately, the water is back open, as you may have noticed by the armada of boats in Biscayne Bay last weekend. That said, don’t look for massive boat tie-ups or Monument Island parties any time soon -- boats must stay 50 feet apart at all times.

Parks

Most city parks in all three counties are currently open, although some, like South Pointe Park in Miami Beach, have specific hours to ensure all of Miami doesn’t show up and ruin it for everyone. People who visit must wear masks unless they are exercising, and, no, following your dog over to a group of shirtless, socially distanced guys does not count as “exercise.”
 
State parks are closed in Dade, so if you were thinking you could skirt the closed beaches by heading out to Bill Baggs, it’s not happening. In Broward County, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is closed. But Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is open. In Palm Beach County, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is closed, though Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound is open, and began renting kayaks and canoes last weekend.
 
Everglades National Park is partly open, so you’re able to head down to Flamingo or Long Pine Key for hiking or kayak/canoe rentals. As is West Lake, Royal Palm (Anhinga Trail), and the Coastal Prairie Trail. Shark Valley, however, is closed -- as well as all visitors’ centers and campgrounds.

Gyms

While gyms in Palm Beach County are currently open, Broward is in a tug-of-war between the county and the city, where Ft. Lauderdale wants them open, but the county still says no. As of  right now, they are closed for the foreseeable future, but that may change soon. Gym-obsessed Miami, however, will still be relegated to exercising in living rooms or in the great outdoors, as gyms there are not set to open as of yet. Though one gym owner we spoke to said he received a call from the mayor’s office saying they were holding a conference call in the next couple of days to discuss opening procedures.

Salons

Barber shops, hair salons, and other “beauty” businesses will be open, but only by appointment -- no walk-ins will be allowed. Both employees and customers must wear masks, unless it needs to be removed for stuff like shaves, lip waxes, and sideburn trims. And all customers will have to wait outside until their appointment begins.

Retail

Retail stores will be allowed to open, with only 50% capacity and masks worn at all times. You also won’t be able to see how your clothes look before you buy them, because fitting rooms will be closed. And any clothes that people touch or try on will need to be cleaned before being placed back on the rack. Stores will also employ single entrance points and traffic flow markers. 

Museums

Museums are currently allowed to open, and Miami Beach opened its museums May 20. That said, most large institutions are not yet open and have not announced plans to, though HistoryMiami alluded to “early June” on its Instagram. For its part, the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood is open, requiring its employees to wear masks, providing hand sanitizer through, prohibiting on-site ticketing, and offering an airbrush tent where you can paint your own mask.

Movie Theaters

Movie theaters remain closed, and though both SwapShop locations didn’t make it through the pandemic, Dezerland in North Miami will begin showing drive-in movies in its parking lot this weekend. Carflix Cinema kicks off its run with a 5pm showing of Sonic the Hedgehog, an 8pm showing of the original Jurassic Park, and will continue every Friday with schedules expanding in the coming weeks. Sound will be played through car radios and you can order food via an app, which will be delivered right to your car window.

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Curt Hollingsworth is a Miami native who spends his time enjoying the city, the sand, the Keys, and any bar that claims they have the best margarita in town.