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All Day I Dream takes over the Beach Club at the 1 Hotel during Miami Music Week 2018.EXPAND
All Day I Dream takes over the Beach Club at the 1 Hotel during Miami Music Week 2018.
Photo courtesy of All Day I Dream

How Miami Nightlife Promoters Are Handling the Party-Free Coronavirus Pandemic

As major metropolitan areas across the nation implement shutdowns and curfews, the panic surrounding the novel coronavirus across the United States has reached a fever pitch. Last week saw the total number of confirmed cases in Miami-Dade County quickly jump, prompting Mayor Carlos Gimenez to declare a state of emergency. Gimenez's proclamation followed the official cancellation of Ultra Music Festival's 2020 edition the previous Friday.

For a while, it seemed as though Miami Music Week — which was scheduled to kick off today and run through Friday, March 20 — might pull off the unlikely and proceed without its signature event. However, after President Trump on Wednesday, March 11, announced a ban on travel from Europe, many club promoters and music venue operators were left nervous about their own gatherings' chances of survival.

As of Monday, March 16, most Miami nightclubs and concert venues have scrapped their programming through the end of the month and beginning of April for the sake of public safety; this comes as a harsh development to club promoters and dance music aficionados, both of whom look forward to Miami Music Week as an opportunity to celebrate the Magic City's status as an international dance music mecca.

“I think the beauty of Miami Music Week is that everybody who comes into town all shares the common love for this music,” says Rafi Leibo, a producer and promoter with Denial Events. “But obviously, it got to the point where it became socially irresponsible to even try to do these events, which is why we ended up canceling.”

Among other events, Denial had been scheduled to host acts such as Dave Neven and Nifra at Miami Beach's Rockwell this Tuesday, March 17. Denial’s Miami Music Week itinerary has not explicitly been canceled for the remainder of 2020 but rather postponed until further notice.

It's an odd sort of stasis in which other promoters, such as Diskolab, have found themselves.

“We were very excited for our DiskoLab MMW 2020 series with one of our best lineups to date,” Diskolab CEO Gianfranco Mossena says, “but the health and safety of our guests and everybody else around us is our top priority. Therefore, we're postponed for the time being.”

Considering the federal and state governments’ glacial, half-baked response to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s safe to assume this situation will get worse before it gets better. Don't be surprised if all of this year's Miami Music Week events — including flagships Ultra and Winter Music Conference — wind up so-called postponed until March 2021.

The announcement of Trump's travel ban marked a turning point in Miami Music Week's viability. 1-800-Lucky — which had been scheduled to host world-renowned international DJs such as A-Trak and Chris Lake — suffered a devastating blow as a result of the ban, and the Wynwood food hall and music venue subsequently postponed its Music Week events as well.

Although it seems like the obvious culprit, Trump’s travel ban to and from Europe last week wasn’t the sole cause for many of Miami Music Week's cancellations. It did, however, reinforce that hosting events as planned would have led to an even bigger disaster.

"Around 80 percent of our talent was coming from Europe for this week alone,” Leibo says of Denial’s Music Week lineup. “Even if it wasn't for that travel ban, we probably would have made the same decision anyway just because of the social responsibility aspect; it’s not a great look for the community well-being to get a thousand people in close confines given the current circumstances regardless of the talent that was available.”

Megan Nazari of Do Not Sit on the Furniture — widely regarded as South Beach’s most intimate nightclub — told New Times over the weekend that although the European travel ban negatively affected the venue's Miami Music Week programming, it did not derail its plans entirely. “We’ve had cancellations from various artists, but life must go on and we are still going through with our events during Miami Music Week,” she says warily. “We’re moving forward with caution, and every day is a new thing to deal with.”

However, by Sunday, Do Not Sit shared on Facebook that the club has placed a moratorium on all future events in compliance with orders from the City of Miami Beach.

Despite the public health panic, many nightlife producers are remaining optimistic and trying to see the pandemic through together, which oftentimes is the only way to survive trying times like these. “I guess the only reassuring thing is that every promoter in the city all kind of feels the same way; we’re all kind of unified on it,” Leibo says. “I wouldn’t say there's really competition in this city; we’re all friends, so we're happy to be going through it together.” Denial Events, in particular, plans to move forward with events in the late spring and summer and has a packed event calendar in the fall that extends until next March, when it's hoped Miami Music Week will return in its full glory.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is that we still live in Miami, so there’s a lot to look forward to,” Leibo concedes. “It’s not all doom and gloom.”

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