MIAMI – Shortly after midnight on Sunday, a line of at least 50 men and women meandered from the entrance of Tootsie’s cabaret to the sidewalk bordering the perimeter of the huge strip club in Miami Gardens, a small town in the south from Florida which has totaled nearly 5,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Two Miami Gardens police cars directed traffic to a satellite parking lot because Tootsie’s main parking lot was completely full.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Tootsie’s owners had obtained a court injunction at least temporarily overturning the Miami-Dade County midday curfew. The party had only just begun.
Johnny Fernandez, a 33-year-old Miami Gardens resident who waits in line and grins broadly, said young Miamians like him are nocturnal creatures. He wasn’t surprised to see so many people waiting to enter Tootsies after being forced to stay indoors for months during the wee hours of the weekend.
“You can see the angst on their faces,” Fernandez told The Daily Beast. “The people of Miami want to go out. Thank God for Tootsie. “
Miami-Dade judge Beatrice Butchko on Friday sided with the strip seal in her legal challenge to a curfew imposed by County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in August, one of a series of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in one of Florida’s pandemics. epicenters. In his order, Butchko concluded that Miami-Dade could not force Tootsie’s to close at midnight due to an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis in September that prevented cities and counties from enacting more stringent trade restrictions than the state. , according to Miami herald.
Since mid-summer, when Florida was racking up more than 10,000 new cases per day and record deaths, the number of daily coronavirus outbreaks in Sunshine State has declined significantly. Then, on Saturday, Florida reported 4,044 new cases, the largest single-day increase in coronavirus infections since Aug. 22, according to the Tampa bay times. Yet over the past 14 days, the Florida Department of Health has primarily reported a daily positivity rate of 5 percent or less – the World Health Organization standard for safe reopening.
However, a Sun-Sentinel last week’s investigation found the state agency was employing “a deceptive measure of positive cases” that DeSantis and its administration had used to justify reopening schools and businesses. Other health organizations, like Johns Hopkins University, are releasing data that shows Florida’s daily positivity rate has actually been over 5% for 14 consecutive days. And now the city’s party tie is taking full advantage of the new leniency to immerse itself in the late-night party, feeding exactly the kind of conditions – drunk people in confined spaces – epidemiologists have long warned.
In a press release issued on Saturday afternoon, Gimenez said the county was appealing Butchko’s order but that, from now on, “the curfew is unenforceable”. Spokesmen for Gimenez and DeSantis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson for one Tootsie’s said the strip club has requested an injunction to operate during its normal hours so that its employees and performers can earn a living. “Tootsie’s continues to take COVID-related security measures seriously and urges others to do so,” the statement said. “These measures include controlling the temperature of guests, employees and performers; forcing them to wear masks; social distancing; and limit occupancy to 50 percent. “
But the judge’s decision has implications beyond Tootsie’s. Around 1 a.m. Sunday, bars and lounges in Wynwood, Miami’s most popular destination, were in full swing, with long lines outside traditional hot spots like El Patio and Wood Tavern.
LIV Miami, the popular Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel nightclub, announced on its Instagram page in the early afternoon, on its Instagram page, that it would reopen soon and operate under normal business hours until at 5 o’clock in the morning. Shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday, more than 40 people, many without masks, danced to a DJ playing music near the hotel lobby bar. A spokesperson for Fontainebleau Miami Beach did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Back in Miami Gardens, Fernandez ignored Gimenez’s note about covering his face despite the curfew lifted. He wasn’t wearing a mask, but no one, including the bouncers, seemed to tell him he had to put one on. “I don’t like the whole mask thing,” Fernandez said, but added: “But when I walk in I’ll put on a mask. I understand that companies have the right to apply it, just like they do. require “no shoes, no shirt means no service”. “
Before arriving at the strip club, he had gone to downtown Miami bar Mama Tried, having a drink with friends. “I live a few blocks from here and I was not ready to go home,” Fernandez said. “So I decided to come hang out at Tootsie’s.
He wasn’t the only late-night reveler who wanted to resume the party at a pre-pandemic clock. René Millan, his girlfriend, Rosalin Gutierrez, and four friends decided to continue after hitting golf balls at Top Golf, also in Miami Gardens. “What are we going to do? Come home and sleep?” Millan said sarcastically. “Here we can stay until every time and enjoy a nice and entertaining atmosphere.”
Gutierrez and Millan said they were fully aware the pandemic was not over, but they felt safe inside Tootsie. They had already been to the strip club when it reopened last month and was operating from 6 a.m. to midnight – under curfew. “We don’t want to be infected,” Gutierrez said. “But they are very strict with the precautions. They apply the mask rule and separate the tables of other people by six feet. “
The couple said they don’t buy lap dances and pay for their drinks with a credit card.
Another boss, Maurice Jones, said he and his girlfriend took the risk of celebrating his 25th birthday. “It’s a good atmosphere,” he says. Regarding Tootsie’s struggle in court to resume normal operating hours, Jones said that is what capitalism is: “Money rules.
Fernandez said he is not worried about catching the coronavirus by showing up to Tootsies. He also said he believes the reboot of Miami’s nightlife isn’t going to accelerate the surge in new cases. “Not at all,” he said, digging deeper, “the numbers have been rigged from the start. We were embarrassed.
The 33-year-old went on to say the disease-related death toll was inflated, echoing Donald Trump’s right-wing conspiracies.
“There is a big difference between dying from Covid and dying from something else while you had Covid,” Fernandez said, adding, falsely, “I’m not worried about catching it because if you have less age 70, the chances of you dying are 0.5 percent. “
Meanwhile, a beefy bouncer walked around the perimeter of the line, shouting for people to put some distance between themselves and the other people in front and behind them. The bouncer, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the 75,000 square foot strip club only allowed 50% of its maximum capacity – an indicator that Tootsie’s always respected. other county restrictions.
He warned customers that it would take some time before they could enter. “We are at full capacity,” he said. “There is an hour to two hours of waiting.”
No one left the line.
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