One year ago, Stephanie Vitori formed the initiative Miami Beach Small Business Week to give local entrepreneurs a boost.
Now the Cheeseburger Baby owner is fighting to keep her South Beach restaurant alive through takeout and delivery. The eatery, which gets a lot of its business in the wee hours, was dealt an especially crushing blow last week when the City of Miami Beach issued a midnight-to-5-a.m. curfew.
Late-night business, Vitori says, doesn't come only from tourists or people aiming to pound calories after hitting the bars in South Beach. "We serve first responders, security guards, hospital workers, and people in the hospitality industry," she says. "There's a world of people that need to be fed after hours. Miami Beach is still a 24-hour city."
When business plummeted, she called her landlord, Jimmy Resnick, to request an extension on her rent. She also asked the well-connected property owner if he could lobby city officials to allow restaurants in Miami Beach to deliver food after the curfew. "He reached out to some Miami Beach commissioners," Vitori says, "and so did I."
She also took to social media, where she friended Commissioner Michael Gongora on Facebook and messaged him about the plight of Beach restaurateurs. "I even sent him a birthday bitmoji of myself riding a unicorn to wish him a magical birthday," she says.
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To her surprise, he responded: "We are extending your hours of delivery."
And sure enough, on March 28, the City of Miami Beach issued a short statement announcing that effective March 29, local restaurants would be allowed to operate their kitchens past midnight for delivery only.
Vitori calls it a victory, and not only for her and her fellow restaurant owners. "At the end of the day, it's not just about keeping my business alive. It's keeping my employees, my purveyors, and Uber drivers working.
"It's about supply and demand," she adds. "We supply a demand for food between midnight and 5 a.m. You really have to think about who's out there working to keep the city going. There's really no food at the hospitals to keep the staff going."