Coronavirus updates: State of Emergency, businesses forced to close or reduce capacity, senior centers and rec centers to close

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Coronavirus updates: State of Emergency, businesses forced to close or reduce capacity, senior centers and rec centers to close:

The latest on the impacts of COVID-19

It’s been a week (or a year depending on your point of view). 

Miami Beach declared a State of Emergency and gave City Manager Jimmy Morales certain powers that include the closure of clubs and other venues and implementing curfews, as he deems necessary. In a special meeting Friday, City Commissioners extended Morales’ emergency powers through March 20 and revised the State of Emergency declaration to mandate that all restaurants and nightclubs with occupancy loads greater than 250 either close immediately or reduce their capacity to less than 250 people. While recommending the capacity measure, Morales told Commissioners, however, that he had “no intention at this point of utilizing” curfews.

The City also announced it would close all senior centers effective Monday. All recreation centers will close Monday, March 16 through Sunday, March 29. (See below.)

The restrictions on capacity limits impact not only larger clubs like the Clevelander and Mango’s, but also large restaurants like Joe’s Stone Crab. City Attorney Raul Aguila said businesses would “self-police” their occupancy loads. In a “worst case scenario” businesses could be shut down if they didn't comply and violators would be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution.

Mayor Dan Gelber said the challenge of dealing with the virus is “very, very daunting,” noting the City is “not getting a whole lot of guidance, frankly” from the agencies in charge of dealing with it. Recommendations on crowd size did not come until the past few days, he said.

Addressing the restrictions on large crowds and private businesses with higher capacities, the Mayor said, Miami Beach “has always been a hospitality community, obviously, but we can’t be a hospitality community when we’re dealing with this kind of challenge.”

“We know this is an incredible economic burden, not just on the [hospitality] industry, but real people, people who are not working,” Gelber added. “Hopefully there will be some kind of relief at some point” stressing that current “decisions are based on health care and nothing more or less, frankly.”

Morales noted the President’s declaration Friday of a national emergency will “free up about $42 billion in disaster relief funds” which he said the City would proactively pursue. “We’re already working on relief and recovery issues for small businesses and cultural institutions.”

Assistant City Manager Alina Tejeda Hudak, the City’s point person on the coronavirus, said, in addition to the health aspects, “We are very concerned about our small businesses. We are very concerned about our large businesses. This is something that is going to have a very real economic impact to the City of Miami Beach.” She indicated Gelber has sent the necessary letters to Miami Beach’s congressional delegation “to make sure that everything that needs to be done from our perspective to be in the queue and to be considered for those funds is in place.”

Commissioner Michael Góngora said he supported the declaration to reduce capacities due to the unprecedented and unknown nature of the virus. “For the business community, I’m incredibly sympathetic,” he said. “I’m incredibly empathetic for our small businesses and for our workers that live week to week or month to month that rely on tips and hospitality and we’re going to have to think about what we can do for them because it’s going to be incredibly difficult for all of us but especially for people that are going to feel it in their pocketbooks.”

Commissioner Ricky Arriola is concerned about what’s ahead in the coming week if first responders who come in contact with infected individuals get sick. “What happens in the event our first responders start getting sick? We know that’s guaranteed,” he said. 

Based on how the virus is progressing globally, Arriola said, “I think, unfortunately, we’re going to be in a week – two at most – looking at a curfew, possibly martial law. We have to prepare for that. I don’t want to just be focused on closing restaurants and clubs, that’s going to happen. What’s the next phase? We need to be thinking ahead.”

Commissioner Mark Samuelian urged the City Administration to engage with local business owners and the organizations that represent them to discuss issues ranging from safety and hygiene in restaurants to helping employees that may be displaced and keeping them up-to-date about “how this evolves over time… it may get worse. On the other hand, there will be a time, I believe, where it will get better,” he said, noting, “Those phases have different responses.”

Gelber agreed and suggested the conversation also include how the federal money that will become available could best be used. “We would like our businesses and our workers to have their experiences reflected in whatever remedies come up. The federal government’s going to have to spend billions of dollars in this area to figure out what to do.”

“There’s going to be a lot of bankruptcies, unfortunately,” Gelber said. “There’s going to be a lot of out-of-work people who defaulted on everything from rental payments to mortgage payments to car payments.”

The Mayor said he hopes businesses can work with the City to “develop an agenda that we promote at the county, state, and federal level to say ‘This is what we could use right now.’ They’re going to do something and it ought to reflect what we need.”

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has activated a Business Damage Assessment survey to understand the impact of coronavirus on local businesses and determine appropriate relief efforts. Businsses can use the survey to access the Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan. 

With information rapidly evolving on the coronavirus pandemic, the City’s COVID-19 webpage provides a list of postponed/cancelled events and meetings, prevention tips, and a list of safety measures Miami Beach is taking along with other important information and resources.

The Florida Department of Health has established a call center available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1.866.779.6121. You can also email your questions to

For City of Miami Beach-specific coronavirus questions, call the City's hotline at 305.673.CITY.

Update from the City

Senior Updates: All senior centers will be closed effective Monday. Any seniors that are currently registered in a senior meals program will be served meals by their respective providers based on their specific plans.

Parks and Recreation Update: Effective Monday, March 16 through Sunday, March 29, all recreation centers will be closed, all recreation and athletic programs will be cancelled. All Parks and Rec Department events and field trips will be cancelled.

The City’s golf, tennis, and pool facilities will remain open for non-programmed activities.

Monitor the City’s coronavirus page for further information as it becomes available.



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