Longtime promoter Aramis Lorie is used to hurricanes. He's been through Andrew, Wilma, and Katrina. But Irma definitely threw him for a loop. He couldn't leave his aging parents behind, and he was afraid of abandoning his bar, 1306, located in the quickly gentrifying but still somewhat industrial part of North Miami Avenue just north of the I-195 overpass.
However, riding out the storm in his 50th-floor condo in downtown Miami wasn't an option. The building's management announced before the storm it would shut off the cooling tower and elevators as a precautionary measure.
"The idea of walking up and down 50 flights of stairs wasn't very appealing to me," Lorie says.
So instead, he rode out the storm at 1306 to make sure looters didn't enter the venue and steal anything.
"I had a fully stocked bar and food. I had everything I needed."
At the height of the storm, which whipped 100 mph winds through the city, Lorie says he would intermittently open the door of the bar to check on the courtyard. Around 1 or 2 p.m., he realized someone had broken into the venue and tried to pry open the ATM.
"They couldn't open the machine," Lorie says.
By the time the winds died down Sunday evening, 1306 had lost power and Lorie crawled out of the venue to the nearby All Day for food and coffee. Overall, he says, the damage caused by Irma wasn't as great as that caused by Wilma, which wrecked his venue back then, the District, and his condo at the Palm Bay Club, which was hit by a tornado during the 2005 storm.
Still, Lorie says he's exhausted after Irma. "I've barely slept trying to get my business back in order."
All across Miami-Dade, businesses are coming back to life after a grueling time before and after Irma. Nightclubs and bars were particularly hit hard last week as residents fled the city when a 185 mph Irma was forecasted to hit the city directly. Nightclubs, which make the bulk of their money on weekends, were forced to cancel planned nights either because of mandatory evacuation orders or curfews.
"We are not salaried employees," Travis Rogers, Heart Nightclub's talent buyer, says. "We are 1099. When clubs close, we don't make money."
Rogers says Heart took Irma's threat seriously but still waited until Thursday night last week to make the call on whether to close the 11th Street nightclub. It didn't make the announcement public until Friday in case South Florida's prognosis looked better in the morning.
Despite having gone through Andrew and being used to the threat of hurricanes, Rogers says he fled with his girlfriend and mother to a cabin in the Georgia mountains when it looked like Irma would annihilate the Magic City. The remote location proved to be both a blessing and a curse for him, because cell service was weak, allowing him to get only 3G speeds intermittently, but also forced him to disconnect from the world.
When he returned to Miami earlier this week, he was glad to see Heart had survived relatively unscathed.
"The plastic lining on the rooftop broke," Rogers says. "But we got lucky. Miami as a whole dodged a bullet."
Still, Rogers admits area nightclubs will feel the financial pinch caused by Irma, and he warns that because of the expense many residents incurred while evacuating, locals might forgo leisure activities like clubbing on a Saturday night until they recoup the money.
"It's going to be interesting to see this weekend if people go out with everyone still not having power and gas being scarce," Rogers says. "Myself, I'm dying to get back out."
Over in Wynwood, Cesar Morales is getting ready to welcome back customers at Wood Tavern today after getting power back yesterday. However, that's not the only struggle Morales faced in getting the bar ready once again for business.
"Ninety-five perfect of my staff, understandably, evacuated out of the city," Morales says. His staff only recently began returning, with about 75 percent back in the city.
Morales, however, is taking Irma in stride, insisting September is the slowest month of the year for bars and nightclubs, with or without hurricanes. He also says he's yet to see any short- or long-term impact because of the storm.
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"People are desperate to get out and go back to living their lives normally," Morales says.
If there's one lesson Morales says he learned from Irma, it's that he needs to invest in a generator. "I would have been able to open sooner if I had one."
Back at 1306, Lorie says the venue still doesn't have power but insists it will open tomorrow regardless.
"I have a small generator, and I'm getting more to power everything."