MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An iconic Miami-Dade restaurant is closing at the end of the month as “another victim of the pandemic.”

Workers at Rio Cristal, which is known for its Rio Cristal ‘bistec’ or steak that is served with sumptuous, thinly-sliced Julienne French fries on top of it, say their restaurant will be shutting down at the end of August.

Those workers tell CBS4 that their restaurant has been serving people for the past 46 years at its well-known location on Bird Road at 99th Avenue.

Nationwide, authorities say more than 16,000 restaurants have shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rio Cristal was trying to survive while serving take-out food after Miami-Dade restaurants were ordered to stop indoor dining for a 2nd time since March because of a surge in positive coronavirus cases in the county.

Rio Cristal customers tell CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that they are stunned.

“They are a landmark in Miami,” said George Castell. “A lot of people know it. A lot of people growing up knowing it and they knew about the founder also owning Lila’s restaurant that shut down. Their Rio Cristal steak was like a Lila’s steak.”

Customer Moe Igheldane said “It is sad. It is a shame. They have been around a long time. As a small business owner, you feel for these businesses that are just trying to get by.”

Manny Sanchez said “I feel real sad. I know the owners. This is real bad.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CBS4 “It is disheartening. It is tragic. This is another victim of the coronavirus. We are sorry we had to take the measures we took but the measures are there to save lives. Miami-Dade County did establish a $30 million restaurant fund to basically help restaurants stay afloat until they can open again.”

He said “The good news is that at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We have seen a decrease in the number of people going into hospitals and we are seeing a decrease in the positivity rate. But we must all take responsibility and wear face masks and keep a social distance and wash our hands. If we do that we can eventually start to reopen some of these businesses.”

“Even if we do reopen, that does not mean this thing is over,” he said. “The virus will be with us a long time. We can not let our guard down. The virus can come back at any time.”

A number of restaurants are taking elaborate steps to survive during the Pandemic.

The well-known Versailles restaurant has set up dozens of tables under tents in one of its parking lots outside the business on Southwest 8th Street for outdoor dining.

Employees there say they have seen a surge in business since the tents and tables were set up.

Gimenez told D’Oench “Miami-Dade has been doing as much as it can to help restaurants open up on the exterior.”

Kevin Uzuiano of Homestead said, “I don’t mind it but I could eat on the inside.”

Sitting next to him, Erin Wynne said “I definitely would not go into a restaurant right now. Now I feel safer and more comfortable being a table outside.”

Mayor Gimenez has said he would like to see the positivity rate for coronavirus testing consistently drop below 10 percent before considering a move back to indoor dining.

On Friday he said it might have to be lower than that and the county would be working closely with medical experts.

Peter D'Oench

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