As retail shops and restaurants in Miami Beach prepare to reopen, the group that represents Lincoln Road businesses not only wants you to feel comfortable coming back, they want to set the standard for cleanliness.
The eight-block pedestrian walkway fully reopened this week for recreational activity with the removal of all fencing and barricades. Hours are from 5 am to 11 pm while the City curfew remains in effect. On May 20, retailers will begin to reopen with restaurants following on May 27 as proposed in the City’s reopening plan.
With reduced traffic due to the COVID-19 non-essential business closures and people observing the City’s Safer-at-Home measures, Lincoln Road underwent “extensive deep cleaning and beautification including pressure cleaning, surface sanitation, [and] painting” prior to the reopening, according to the BID.
Lincoln Road BID Executive Director Tim Schmand said since the closures began he’s been engaging in “conversations about the best way to have a public space now” and studying reopening procedures that utilize best practices while being responsive to what people want and need from the places they go. “A clean, well-lit public space… is what we’re all after,” he said. “I just want to be the cleanest space in Miami-Dade County, bar none.”
Health, safety, and cleanliness are the pillars of Lincoln Road’s “New Norm” playbook. City sanitation staff will provide daily cleaning that includes an ongoing pressure washing schedule of all pedestrian surfaces. The Lincoln Road ambassadors will assist by wiping down all surfaces and touch points throughout the day and request visitors observe social distancing guidelines. The ambassadors will also distribute free face masks designed by a local artist. “The use of face masks will be strongly encouraged when strolling Lincoln Road,” according to the BID’s announcement of the reopening.
Schmand is now working with Lincoln Road businesses to help them understand the County and City requirements for reopening and asking them what they need to get up and running again. Initially, stores and restaurants will operate at reduced capacity with social distancing requirements and sanitizing procedures. Those guidelines are expected to be released soon by the City.
For now, the BID is marketing the reopening of the pedestrian promenade as “a destination for Miami Beach residents… a safe place where you can come and practice your social distance” after being “cooped up,” Schmand said.
Once retail and restaurants reopen in the next week to ten days, he expects to see residents from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. “It’s going to be a slow roll,” he said, adding “People are dying to go out, but I don’t know that they’re dying to go in yet. I don’t know that they’re going to want to walk into stores yet. It’s our responsibility to make them feel safe and comfortable.”
Lyle Stern, President of Koniver Stern Group, a retail leasing and consulting company that owns and operates properties on Lincoln Road is involved in the reopening plans at the County and City levels. Stern, who also serves on the Board of the Lincoln Road BID, participates on both the retail and restaurant task forces advising Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and co-chairs a hospitality advisory panel appointed by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber along with hospitality entrepreneur Emilio Estefan and Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce President Robin Jacobs.
In places with “great outdoor space,” like Lincoln Road, Stern said, “I think we’re going to see people flocking” back when restaurants reopen. While restaurants will not be able to increase their overall number of seats, they will, temporarily, be allowed to have more seats outside to help accommodate for distancing rules in the plan being finalized by the City.
“I think the piece that we have to get right – and it requires every restaurant, retailer, the City, and police working in tandem – is to make sure the people that are coming, whether our residents or guests, abide by the standards,” Stern said.
“There’s the societal risk of spread – which is real – if we’re not appropriately behaving and the reputational damage to the city as the lights come back on" if guidelines are not observed, Stern said. “We’ll be on the national news.”
“That only happens if there’s bad players” on either the restaurant or customer side, he noted. “Everybody has a cell phone and they’re looking for the one guy that gets it wrong… It’s on the City and the community to make sure we all get it right.”
Stern added the outdoor features of Lincoln Road give it some unique advantages. “We have this incredible street that we can maintain daily. We have the ability to take this spectacular, beautiful landscaped street [and] clean it from top to bottom every day” with pressure washing and wiping down of spaces, something you can’t do in a indoor mall, he said.
Based on what we’re learning so far, Stern said, “Being outside in fresh air is going to be much healthier for sure than being inside even with filtered air.” With outdoor dining, the cleanliness standards, and what he calls “gentle enforcement” of the rules of the road – social distancing and handing out free face masks – “Our goal is to show the public what we’re doing every single day in this great outdoor space so that they’ll feel comfortable coming here and want to come here. People have choices. We have to outperform the competition and our own standards.”
“I think our promise, our commitment, is to be the safest cleanest outdoor experience you can have in a commercial district in the state.” Later, Stern said, the BID will add interesting programming that allows for the rules of social distancing.
The balance between attracting guests and the new rules will require balance and creativity.
“It’s a struggle for us, because for Lincoln Road and as a public space manager, you want to attract as large an audience as you can to anything,” Schmand said. “Now, we have to be very judicious in what we do to attract people to ensure we don’t overcrowd ourselves… to ensure we can have special activities that do incur social distancing.”
“It’s the strangest thing to think about because all of my professional career [has been] to get as many people as you can to come by and say hello" at every venue he's worked.
Now, Schmand said, “Everything’s a test. So, we’re going to go out there and see what works and what doesn’t work" in the new normal. "Unfortunately, we’re in interesting times.”
Photos courtesy Lincoln Road BID
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