Miami-Dade mayor won’t lift midnight curfew for spring break. Restaurants fighting it.

Douglas Hanks
·3 min read

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava won’t lift the county’s midnight curfew in March, leaving the COVID-19 business restriction in place through the peak of Spring Break unless lawmakers or courts intervene.

“We can’t let our guard down when we are so close to the finish line,” Levine Cava wrote county commissioners in a memo released Friday. She said the curfew would end April 5 if hospitalizations don’t worsen and the average rate of positive COVID-19 results from tests countywide hits 5.5%. The current average is 6.3%.

Some county commissioners have already complained that the curfew’s time has passed as COVID-19 hospitalizations decline and the share of positive virus tests also improves. Businesses are fighting the curfew in court, including a new federal challenge from Wynwood bars and restaurants.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently criticized COVID-19 curfews as the kind of business restriction he opposes in favor of letting customers and proprietors follow common-sense health measures.

Levine Cava’s predecessor, Carlos Gimenez, imposed the county’s first COVID-19 curfew during a summer surge of coronavirus cases. At the time, the curfew was 10 p.m. He moved it to midnight in October. Gimenez also allowed exemptions for late-night football games and other entertainment events, and declined to object when a rally by then-President Donald Trump spilled into the early morning.

Levine Cava, elected in November, temporarily moved the curfew to 1 a.m. for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

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The exemptions help show why the curfew treats restaurants and bars unfairly, according to a new federal suit against Miami-Dade by Coyo Taco, El Patio, Wood and other Wynwood establishments. The curfew order “is irrational and arbitrary at best,” reads the suit filed this week in U.S. District Court, and first reported by FoxSports640 host Andy Slater. The businesses say the county has presented no evidence that “COVID-19 is more likely to spread... during late-night hours as opposed to daytime hours.”

Miami-Dade has so far fended off similar claims in state court. That includes the argument that a Sept. 25 order by Gov. Ron DeSantis barring local governments from ordering businesses to close should also strike down Miami-Dade’s curfew, the only one in effect in Florida.

DeSantis has so far declined to intervene in Miami-Dade’s curfew controversy. Asked about it last month, DeSantis said he opposes business clampdowns in the name of COVID-19 mitigation. “People do have a right to earn a living,” he said.

The 13-seat county commission also has authority over Levine Cava’s emergency orders. The board has yet to narrow a mayor’s order or reject one when the measures come up for a vote.