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The South Florida Roundup

Restaurants Prep For Easing Of COVID Restrictions, Miami's New Police Chief, And The Fate Of A Florida Congressional Seat

Sliders. We're over them, the National Restaurant Association says.
South Florida restaurants are preparing for an easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Miami-Dade County will be open for business past midnight beginning next week for the first time since July.

County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the lifting of a COVID-related curfew this week.

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The announcement allows restaurants and bars to return to pre-pandemic hours of operation but Michael Beltran, chef and owner of Ariete Hospitality Group said it doesn’t mean all restaurants will be able to operate full throttle right away.

“There’s a good chance that we won’t be able to open later every day of the week like we had previously because there is no staff to do so,” Beltran said.

Pandemic-related closures left many hospitality workers unemployed. In February, there were 20% fewer people working in the hospitality industry than a year earlier in South Florida.

“Staffing is a huge issue right now, there are plenty of jobs to be had and there isn’t many workers to have them,” Beltran said.

Carlos Frias is the Miami Herald’s food editor. He said there is a shortage of hospitality workers nationwide.

“Restaurants have been limited in their capacity for so long and some of these folks that had a limited ability to work, you know limited hours and what have you, just decided to go in a different field,” Frias said.

Frias said with COVID-19 vaccines now being available to all adults who want one, the next month and a half will be a good barometer to see how comfortable people are returning to hospitality jobs.

“When folks are able to get vaccines, when they are fully vaccinated, are they finally going to say ‘Ok, now I feel safer working in an environment where I am around unmasked people?’" Frias said.

Despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions in Miami-Dade County, Beltran said his hospitality group plans to continue to enforce mask requirements and keep tables spaced out as much as possible at their restaurants.

“I don’t feel like just because the government could be relaxing guidelines means I am going to relax the way that I've been operating, because i’d rather not go back to square one,” Beltran said.

New Chief In Town

The city of Miami’s 42nd police chief was sworn in this week.

Art Acevedo comes to Miami from the Houston Police Department. He got national attention last year for marching with protestors after the death of George Floyd.

When he was sworn in as Miami’s police chief he vowed to make the police department “The Miami Love Boat.”

“We are going to represent and serve all people, from all nations, from all colors, from all sexual orientations, from all walks of life regardless of their socio-economic standing,” Acevedo said at the ceremony.

The federal Department of Justice ended supervision of the Miami Police Department in February that had been in place since 2016. Acevedo said the department will continue to use systems, processes, training and policy recommended by the DOJ.

“If you're not careful, you can take five steps forward, one step backwards,” Acevedo said. "We have to understand that organizational excellence and development and moving forward, never ends. Those efforts never end. And we have to continue to keep our eye on the ball, ensuring that we're robust in our oversight of our own men and women and ensuring that we continue to look for opportunities to do better.”

Acevedo said he wants to streamline the process to eliminate bad actors within the department.

“I’ve put internal affairs directly reporting to me, as the chief of police,” Acevedo said. “ We have cases that are languishing there where we want to fire people but apparently the cases are there for a year or longer and these officers are on the payroll.”

Acevedo said at least 10 officers will be fired.

“The first thing I am going to do is get together with the state attorney in the next week or so, and the director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, because I don’t believe we should be taking that long to take action,” he said.

After 28 Years, Rep. Alcee Hastings’ Congressional Seat is Vacant

Alcee Hastings died this week. He was the most veteran member of Florida’s delegation to the House of Representatives. He was first elected to Congress in 1992.

His death leaves an empty seat in the House for a district that includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties and is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Palm Beach Post reporter Christine Stapleton said according to U.S. code, the governor of the state of a vacant congressional seat has 49 days to hold an election to fill the empty seat.

“We have a situation now where we have three democratic candidates that are running,” Stapleton said. “So we don’t know if all three of them will appear on a ballot, if the party will nominate one of them, or if maybe there’ll be time for a primary.”

The Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty said Hastings' seat might remain vacant over the summer.

“There are a few other open Democratic seats, three house members now have positions in the Biden administration, so those three seats are more likely to be filled before Hastings' is,” Daugherty said.

Broward County commissioners Barbara Sharief and Dale Holness have expressed an interest in running for the seat. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who previously ran against Hastings for his congressional seat, has also expressed interest in representing Florida’s 20th congressional district.

Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.