South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Nine Things to Know Before You Go: South Beach Wine & Food Festival Tips for the New Normal

Have a fun — and safe— SOBEWFF experience.
Have a fun — and safe— SOBEWFF experience. Photo by FujifilmGirl
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) takes to the beach and dozens of other spots throughout Miami next week, with 70 different dinners, parties, and wine tastings to choose from.

The festival, which runs from Thursday, May 20, to Sunday, May 23, will differ from years past, owing to pandemic-related safety measures. (For an in-depth look at the festival's preparations, see this week's feature story, "Clean Plate.")

Those include a slight shift in location for the Grand Tasting Village, which has moved several blocks south on the beach. Another significant change: Events — including dinners — will be held outdoors, with the exception of some wine tastings. Also expect to see smaller crowds; capacity has been reduced to allow for social distancing.

Some things, however, will remain the same. You'll get to watch your favorite celebrities demo their skills at the Grand Tasting Village, eat your fill of burgers at the Burger Bash, and taste all manner of wines and cocktails throughout the weekend.

Here are some tips and tricks for ensuring that your weekend at SOBEWFF is fun and safe.

Check the Time and Date on Your Ticket

Some SOBEWFF festival events this year have been divided into two separate sessions in order to facilitate social distancing. Events like Burger Bash and Bubble Q have two specific entrance times that are not transferrable. The Grand Tasting Village and Best of the Best are ticketed with different times and days. Before heading out, check the time and date listed on your ticket.

Fill Out the SymCheck Questionnaire in Advance

Before entering any SOBEWFF event this year, attendees and participants alike will have to fill out a COVID-related questionnaire on their smartphone. The questionnaire, administered by SymCheck, is accessed via a QR code (no need to download an app) and takes about a minute to complete. Instructions will be included with your ticket confirmation, and a reminder will be emailed 36 hours in advance of your event. The QR code will also be displayed at various locations.  Don't wait until the last minute.

If you Feel Sick, Stay Home

If you're feeling ill, have COVID symptoms, or a fever, please stay home. Your tickets are transferrable; pass them along to a relative or friend. (Though the festival normally operates with a strict no-refund policy, organizers will consider refunds on a case-by-case basis this year.)

Mask Up — and Bring an Extra

The festival will require masks for everyone — chefs, volunteers, and ticketholders — at all times except when eating and drinking. Come prepared with your favorite mask — and bring a spare in case you drop or lose your mask (though we're expecting masks to be the most popular swag at the festival this year).

Don't Be Tardy to the Party

Sure, Miami is a city known for its fashionably late mentality, but if you've paid $250 to spend two hours eating delicious cuisine, you want that entire two hours! The temperature check and health questionnaire might slow things a bit, so be on time. (Better yet, arrive a little early!)

Keep a Safe Distance

Though the festival is not requiring six feet of social distancing, organizers are asking that attendees give each other space. When your favorite chef brings out a tray of irresistible items, try to remain patient. Wait your turn and don't rush the station —- everyone will get their share of food and drink.

Please Don't Touch the Celebrity Chefs

One of the festival's perennial highlights was the access it afforded to culinary celebrities, who were more than happy to take a selfie, shake hands, and mingle with fans. This year, celebrity book signings and photo ops are off the menu. So, if you see Geoffrey Zakarian or Alex Guarnaschelli walking by, just wave and snap a photo from afar. Better yet, plan to watch their demos at the Grand Tasting Village, where you can still ask questions and take all the pics you like from your seat.

Water, Sunscreen, and Comfortable Shoes Are Your Friends

This year, SOBEWFF is held in May, when average Miami Beach temperatures are in the low 90s. You also might be consuming alcoholic beverages. So hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The festival provides unlimited bottled water at every event; take advantage of it. You should also apply — and reapply — sunscreen liberally. And wear comfortable shoes, especially when you're attending events on the sand.

Be Kind, Be Patient

The backbone of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival has always been the volunteers, chefs, and brand ambassadors who are there to make sure you have a good time. This year, they're also on hand to make sure you're safe. All the more reason to honor the festival's guidelines and be understanding and courteous to your fellow festivalgoers, hosts, and participants.

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival. May 20-23 at various locations. Tickets cost $15 to $600 via
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss