Last September, as Hurricane Matthew lurked in the Atlantic, hundreds of patrons gathered at Gramps in Wynwood. "People came out and hung out until the last minute," the bar's owner, Adam Gersten, recalls. "We were understaffed because we didn't realize how many people would already have done their prep and had nothing else to do."
This year, Gersten says, Gramps is prepared — both for the storm and the crowds of patrons who'll likely pass through its doors as Hurricane Irma inches closer to South Florida. The bar will remain open until "just before it's unsafe" and will reopen as soon as possible for a planned "hurricane hangover party."
"Or not a party if there's lots of damage," Gersten adds, careful to avoid sounding cavalier, "but we'll be open."
Gersten is serious about the storm, and with good reason. Hurricane Irma has intensified to a Category 5 storm, with a projected path currently pointed just south of Florida. And the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana late last month is a vivid reminder of the destruction that Irma could bring.
But he's also serious about serving his community. "We have generators, we have fuel, we have large vessels for water. We have a gas stove, so we can boil water if we have to," he says, "and coolers to keep the beer cold."
During Hurricane Matthew, the crowd at Gramps grew so large that some customers waited an hour and a half for pizzas. Not this year, Gersten vows — at least not if the bar's onsite pizza joint, Pizza Tropical, can help it.
"Since we assume that we'll lose power on the walk-in coolers, we'll be trying to make as much dough and pizza as possible," he explains. "[Without refrigeration] the cheese is not going to keep. So we'll be making pizzas Thursday and Friday, storing them, and getting them as cold as possible in the cooler so we can serve and sell cold pizza the morning after. Kind of a hurricane hangover party."
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Gersten makes no promises when it comes to staffing the bar, though. "You can't make people come to work when they have to prepare. People have their lives, and they make their decisions. This year, it may just be me," he laughs, "and I'm ready for that."
But he's also ready to send everyone home and hunker down when and if things get dangerous.
"You have to make sure people don't do stupid things to lose their life," he says, "but if you're safe and staying indoors, I endorse a hurricane party."