Little by little, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Miami rises, coronavirus-related government restrictions are squeezing our lives into a smaller and smaller space.
Today Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez signed an emergency order restricting how walk-up service windows — also known as ventanitas — are allowed to operate during the pandemic.
From now on, ventanitas may be used only for customers to place, pay for, and pick up orders.
Per the emergency order, "Once the customer places an order at a walk-up service window, the customer shall wait for delivery of the order inside a parked vehicle. The food service establishment shall not allow customers to wait at, near or in the vicinity of the walk-up service window or on the premises of the food service business establishment while the customer’s order is being prepared."
An employee will deliver the order to the customer's car.
Additionally, “Food service business establishments shall not allow customers to consume any beverage or eat any food on the premises... [or] allow social gathering at, near or in the vicinity...”
And all customers are required to wear masks at the window.
The full order was posted on Twitter.
Mayor Carlos Hernandez has signed an emergency order restricting walk-up service windows or “ventanitas” at all food service establishments in the City of Hialeah. pic.twitter.com/HmUCDvZYVY— City of Hialeah (@cityofhialeah) April 9, 2020
The order doesn't apply to establishments with municipally approved drive-up or drive-thru facilities.
The ventanita mandate builds upon an earlier one today requiring customers and employees at food-service establishments, pharmacies, grocery stores, and all other essential retail businesses to use masks to cover their noses and mouths and adhere to a minimum six-foot distance from others.
Hernandez tells New Times that he issued the order after driving around the city and witnessing people congregating while waiting for their food. Even more concerning, he says, he saw people socializing over their cafecitos.
"This is another step — and, yes, another sacrifice — to protect each other," the mayor says. "It's very rough."
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Hernandez says he's well aware that for many Hialeah residents, an afternoon cafecito is a way of life.
"We're living in times we've never seen before," he says. "For us Hispanics, it's devastating. We like shaking hands. We like being with people.
"That doesn't mean you still can't have your cafecito," the mayor is quick to add. "You can pick it up and take it home. We just don't want you standing around by that window."
The Hialeah measure didn't simply drop out of the clear blue Miami sky. In a March 23 video message, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez cited the danger posed by residents congregating at ventanitas. "Some of the serving windows at restaurants, the so-called ventanitas, are very crowded," the county mayor noted. "That must not happen.”