April 13, 2021

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‘I’d Much Rather Be in Florida’ – The New York Times

2 min read

Macchialina, a well-loved Italian restaurant on Miami Beach, closed for a few days this month after a staff member tested positive for the virus. But the restaurant has been able to operate through most of the pandemic thanks to Florida’s early reopening (and an outdoor courtyard).

During the worst of the pandemic, Macchialina laid off 25 employees. Business is still down but “we can’t complain,” said Michael Pirolo, the executive chef and owner. His brother had to permanently shutter his Brooklyn restaurant last April thanks to the long lockdown there.

“We kind of get this bad rap around the world for not following the rules, because we’re open,” Jacqueline Pirolo, his sister and managing partner, said of Florida. “But for the most part, our clientele that comes to dine with us follows all the rules. We’ve been able to open and to do this safely, and that’s kind of the middle ground.”

Rolando Aedo, the chief operating officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said about half of restaurant workers and 90 percent of hotel workers were laid off last year, a loss of about 150,000 jobs practically overnight. Now the volume of reservations on the OpenTable app is at about 97 percent of what it was just before the pandemic hit Florida, he said. Hotel occupancy is down nearly 20 percent, which is better than what industry watchers expected.

Hotels are busily booking rooms on Miami Beach, despite the city’s efforts to dissuade spring breakers from coming.

“Unfortunately, we’re getting too many people looking to get loose,” Mayor Dan Gelber said. “Letting loose is precisely what we don’t want.”

At sunset recently, couples and small groups strolled down Ocean Drive, flitting in and out of sidewalk restaurants. Nightclubs like Mango’s Tropical Cafe, a South Beach staple, remain closed. Garage parking costs a whopping $20, part of a spring break price hike.

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