In the midst of Spring Break in Miami Beach, the Clevelander has decided to cease its food and beverage operations temporarily.
The Ocean Drive resort, known for its boisterous atmosphere and sports-themed parties, issued the following statement on Twitter today:
"For Decades, the Clevelander South Beach has been one of the most famous and prominent businesses on Ocean Drive. One reason for our prominence and long-standing reputation has been our focus on the safety and well-being [of] our staff and patrons. Recently, we have grown increasingly concerned with the safety of our dedicated employees and valued customers and the ability of the City to maintain a safe environment in the surrounding area. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the food and beverage operations at Clevelander South Beach until at least March 24, 2021. We will re-evaluate the situation over the coming days and decide whether to re-open or remain temporarily closed. The Clevelander employees have our full support and shall be paid their full salaries during this period."
The decision to close came on the heels of several incidents in South Beach, including one that occurred last night at the intersection of Eighth Street and Ocean Drive. Local 10 reported on a "melee" that led to injuries that required medical attention and police detaining three people. Miami Beach police dispersed the crowd with pepper balls.
Jessica Francos, vice president of operations for Jesta Hotels, which operates the Clevelander, says the incident caused a "stampede." "People we rushing into the Clevelander, trampled over some guests and employees," she says, adding that some portions of the sidewalk were destroyed.
Francos says the Clevelander closed for a short time last weekend after a similar incident on March 12.
As for the decision to shut down food and beverage operations on a Friday afternoon before a busy weekend, Francos admits, "It's a lot of potential lost revenue, but we have made a decision that safety is our number one priority.
"We can control what happens inside the Clevelander but we can't control what happens outside," she adds. "The capacity of the crowds is too much for the police department to handle, in our eyes. If anything happens on our corner outside our business, it can affect our patrons and staff."
She points to Florida's status as one of the nation's more "open" states amid the pandemic, explaining that "it feels like more people are visiting us and they feel more free to act freely and not responsibly. The police and locals and businesses are the ones who have to deal with this."
Francos says coronavirus protocols played a part in the decision as well.
"Every time something happens, we have to shut down our business to sanitize everything again. We did that last night and decided to just stay closed for a few days. It's very difficult to be a responsible business owner at this time."
Last July, the Clevelander voluntarily closed for several months after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
The Clevelander's food and beverage operations will remain closed until at least Wednesday, March 24. The Clevelander Hotel itself will remain open for guests, and a rooftop bar and sports bar will be available to hotel guests only. Francos says the Clevelander will continue to pay all of its employees despite the shutdown.
Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Bar. 1020 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-532-4006; clevelander.com.
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