A brawl in front of a South Beach restaurant and hotel on Tuesday, coupled with documented social-distancing and face-mask violations, led the city of Miami Beach to announce it would shut down the business for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency in the city.
The announced shuttering of Ocean Drive’s Voodoo Lounge at least through July 17 — when the city’s declared state of emergency expires — is the longest closure the city has imposed on a business under new coronavirus regulations since restaurants were allowed to reopen in Miami Beach in May.
Violators of the rules, which require tables to be set 6 feet from each other and that face masks be worn, are subject to 24-hour closures under Miami-Dade County rules.
“The inability of Voodoo Lounge to follow the emergency orders, coupled with the recent shooting, left the City Manager no choice but to close this establishment under his emergency powers,” a spokeswoman told the Miami Herald in an email. “The closure could last beyond July 17, if the emergency period is extended.”
The fight started after two men were turned away by security for not having ID, security guards told police. They refused to leave and “allegedly became belligerent and aggressive,” police said.
A video of the incident shared to social media showed some people throwing restaurant furniture around and throwing punches. Someone then fired off a can of pepper spray. The video also showed a crowd running from the sound of what appeared to be gunshots. In an incident report documenting the brawl, police said one man “allegedly produced a handgun concealed on his person and discharged two rounds into the air.”
No injuries were reported.
The city announced Voodoo’s extended closure on the same day Morales imposed a new curfew, referencing “loitering” and “social interaction” in parts of the city along with the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in Miami-Dade.
The curfew is from 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Retail stores, from supermarket chains to local liquor stores, are also prohibited from selling alcohol after 8 p.m. Thursday.
“This will reduce the social interaction and help police with enforcement against loitering,” Morales said of the curfew. “There is nothing else to do after midnight.”
During a City Commission meeting Monday, city leaders spoke out against Ocean Drive’s standing as a party hub in Miami Beach. Mayor Dan Gelber said he would be glad if any of the street’s “bad actors” shut their doors amid the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“If COVID results in the closure of some of our bad actors, we’ll be better for it,” he said. “I don’t mean to sound cruel, but we’ll be better for it if some of these bad actors go elsewhere.”
Gelber said Ocean Drive’s party atmosphere is “not consistent” with the city’s image.
“The curfew doesn’t solve all the issues, but it certainly manages some of them,” he said.