MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade restaurant owners are preparing to close their indoor dining areas again, after an emergency order Monday from Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

After initially demanding all restaurants close except for takeout and delivery, the mayor decided later to allow outdoor seating, but with no more than four people at a table and low music to prevent shouting.

Some restaurant owners say the move does not help much.

“We are trying to figure out why the decision was made,” says Ody Lugo, owner of Giardino’s Gourmet Salads. “Where are the facts that say that restaurants are the ones that have had the increase?”

She says there has been confusion with all the mixed messages. Lugo, along with a group of about 50 restaurant owners wrote a letter to Gimenez.

It reads in part:

“Although mayor Gimenez did, at the last minute, allow restaurants to operate with outdoor patio service only, the decision was made after many businesses laid off staff in anticipation of reclosing.

Demanding that restaurants close their inside dining rooms after spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to comply with mayor Gimenez’s 182-page ‘New Normal’ reopening guidelines will set the hospitality industry and its employees into a financial tailspin. Many will not recover and will be forced to go out of business.“

“Nobody is saying that it’s the restaurants fault,” Gimenez explains. “It’s the nature of the business that makes it very risky now, because you have to take your mask off indoors.”

“We know that the virus spreads from me to you by my breath,” he continues. “So we want to make sure to keep your masks on in the interior of restaurants. It’s impossible to keep it on because you have to take it off to eat.”

“To be honest, there is not a lot of money in this. Our margins in restaurants are extremely low,” says Jeffrey McInnis.

McInnis, featured in past reports on CBS4’s Taste of the Town, is the owner of three restaurants.

“Sure, there are some bad apples, but instead of going after the bad apples, you are going after the whole bunch. With my business, my employees wear masks 100 percent of the time. They do wear gloves, and we keep social distance, and we space our reservations out. We do a great job of it, and for restaurants like us we are on the verge of bankruptcy, and we can not support this.”

CBS4 asked Mayor Gimenez how long the new restrictions would last for Miami-Dade restaurants. He initially said until the rate of those testing positive for the coronavirus drops to 5 percent in the county, down from its current 20 percent. Later on Twitter he said he misspoke and it would be when we drop to 10 percent, based on World Health Organization guidelines.

Gimenez changed course on gyms, saying they would be allowed to stay open, as long as people wear masks and are spaced 10 feet apart.

In a tweet, Gimenez wrote, “I had a very productive virtual meeting just now with our medical experts and the County’s Wellness Group. We arrived at a compromise to keep gyms & fitness studios open. All doing activities inside must wear a mask or do strenuous training outside staying 10 feet apart w/outmask.”

Gimenez’ emergency order originally called for gyms to close again, along with restaurant indoor dining, ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues and short-term rentals.

“I’m happy we can stay open. It’s a blessing,” said gym owner Gabriel Vorona.

A relieved Vorona, owner of Stunna’s Gym in South Miami, says he has always been careful.

“In my gym, we have stations set up where you are always 6 feet away from each other, and with the gym you have a cleaning and spraying station and customers walk out through the back door and we do everything we can.”

Miami-Dade beaches reopened Tuesday morning after being shut down for the 4th of July weekend in an effort to curb the rising number of cases in South Florida.

Gimenez says the beaches will stay open for now but if social distancing is not practiced, he will have no choice but to close them again.

“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” said Gimenez in a statement.

Various outdoor activities will remain open including condominium and hotel pools with strict social distancing and masks rules, as well as summer camps and child daycare centers with strict capacity limits, requiring masks and social distancing of at least 6 feet.

Office buildings, retail stores and grooming services will also stay open for now.

The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Countywide curfew will remain in force with exceptions for essential workers and for people who have a religious obligation.

Karli Barnett

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