When radio personalities Paul Castronovo and Young Ron Brewer heard about local businesses in Wynwood taking a financial hit from the recent Zika outbreak, they decided to harness the power of their listenership for good.
The duo planned a field trip to Wynwood, inviting 50 listeners and a few local celebrities to enjoy a nice afternoon out – have lunch, tour Wynwood Walls, and grab a beer or two at Wynwood Brewery. The goal? To prove that, despite the Zika scare, Wynwood is alive and well.
Fans of The Paul & Young Ron Show turned out to appreciate a day of art and support the neighborhood. Tommy Torino of Davie said he was there to help the neighborhood. Asked about his fly swatter, he said he didn't have to use it. "I haven't seen one mosquito yet."
The crowd first met for a three-course lunch at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Castronovo clearly liked the food, saying, "I've been to a bunch of different places in Wynwood, but this is the first time I was at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. The yuca and beef dish is something I've never had before, and I would have it again."
He may have enjoyed the entrée, but Castronovo lost his mind over the dessert. "They brought out bread pudding. That's my weakness, and I literally had to walk out so I wouldn't finish everyone's dessert."
The group then got a mini-tour of Wynwood Walls from Ryan the Wheelbarrow, dubbed Miami's Best Graffiti Guide, before heading to Wynwood Brewing for some suds. Castronovo particularly liked Pops Porter for its chocolate and tobacco notes. "I'm usually a wine guy, but this beer with a steak would be ridiculous."
Brewery cofounder Luis "Pops" Brignoni welcomed the group's efforts to shed light on the fact that Wynwood is alive. "August is always a slow month, but this particular situation with Zika has affected our sales. We've taken precautions to make our building safe for business." Brignoni noted that business is slowly picking up. "The first week was tough because everyone was talking about Zika and no one really knew much about it, but after understanding the situation, people have been coming back. Last week's Art Walk was good for us."
Chef Ralph Pagano, who owns Naked Taco and Naked Lunch, was also on hand to show solidarity with his colleagues. "Naked Lunch is very close, in the medical district, so this could have happened to us," he said, holding a fly swatter. "The fact is that we came down to let everyone know it's time to come back to Wynwood. After all, this is a hot neighborhood. I'm going to have a beer; then I'm going to the Butcher Shop. One little bug isn't going to shut down this town."
Swarm's Tony Albelo, who organizes major Wynwood events such as the spring beer festival Sprung!, said the Zika outbreak shouldn't stop people from coming out and enjoying the area's bars and restaurants. "A lot of times when you watch the news, you see only the low points in life. I think to myself, If you allow your personal daily routine to be dictated by fate, how good is that? It's a lousy way to live."
Castronovo deemed the mission to save Wynwood a success. "I think the turnout was great. Everyone actually showed up. It could be that they're not afraid of Zika, or it could be because I'm paying."