Palace Bar, Clevelander, Cafe Milano Closed by Miami Beach on New Year's Weekend

The Palace Bar drag brunch performers wearing masks.
The Palace Bar drag brunch performers wearing masks.
Photo by Len Evans courtesy of the Palace Bar
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At the stroke of midnight last Friday morning, many Miami-area restaurant owners believed that the beginning of 2021 would be a symbol that with a new year comes renewed prosperity. New Year's Eve, usually a cash cow for bars and restaurants on South Beach, proved to be more subdued. Still, people came out and celebrated in accordance with the "new normal": seated, masked, and on the way home by 1 a.m. on Friday morning.

A day later, several Ocean Drive establishments were shut down. According to NBC 6, the Clevelander, Palace Bar, and Cafe Milano were all shut down by Miami Beach Code Enforcement for violating an emergency order that allows establishments to play music and host entertainment only at ambient levels. The emergency order, issued in late September by then-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez, states that restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that provide music or other entertainment are required to do so at "a decibel level below that of normal conversation."

The restaurants were ordered to close for 24 hours. In addition, the Clevelander was fined $1,000, according to Jessica Francos, vice president of operations for Jesta Hotels, which operates the Clevelander.

In a text, Francos told New Times that the closure happened around 5 p.m. Saturday evening. "Code enforcement shut us down without warning. They stated that our music was heard."

In an open letter to fellow Ocean Drive business owners, Francos explained that "code [enforcement] passed by and stated they heard Beyoncé playing 100 feet away and said it came from Clevelander. I was able to pull the list and show we were not playing any songs from Beyoncé and he just shrugged his shoulders. I also asked him why he didn't approach us at that moment and he couldn't answer. Then I asked code if our music was okay when he walked in and he said yes."

Francos added that she cried after the closure: "The cite continues to destroy people and businesses. I am just an employee at Clevelander, but I treat it like it's mine and my heart breaks."

Palace performer Tiffany T. Fantasia posted a video on Facebook, saying code enforcement shut the Palace Bar down in the middle of its Saturday-evening drag show.

The performer, still in makeup and wearing a transparent face shield, said code enforcement shut down the bar in spite of the fact that its license allows for live performances. She said code-enforcement officers were there before the show started. They watched and waited until the show started, then shut down the bar.

In a message to New Times, Fantasia confirmed that code enforcement shut down the Palace around 8 p.m., stating, "They were there before my show at 7 p.m. and about an hour later they shut us down."

A publicist for the Palace confirmed the shutdown. The restaurant was permitted to reopen at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening — a few hours shy of the mandated 24 hours.

"Palace Bar had to cancel 500 brunch reservations today. This is their busiest weekend and they lost over $40,000 between last night and their two brunch seatings today," the publicist wrote via email. 

Back in October, several Miami restaurants in Little Havana and Wynwood were forced to close under similar circumstances. Ball & Chain, Sala’o Restaurant & Bar, Old's Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina, Gramps, and several other establishments were forced to close for 24 hours and were fined.

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