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Miami-Dade County

After warning of new COVID cases, Miami mayor ate at busy restaurant that defied rules

 

Facing an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Miami-Dade County, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez held a press conference Monday to “sound to alarms” and “reiterate” the importance of social distancing and wearing facial coverings.

Three days later, Suarez — who tested positive for COVID-19 in March — was seen at a crowded restaurant where guests appear to have violated a host of coronavirus rules as they dined at packed tables, sat too close to other parties and danced without masks.

Photos show Suarez was present at Swan, a swanky Design District restaurant, on Thursday and June 11. In an Instagram photo that appears to be from June 11, Suarez is shown posing with two men. Photographs from Thursday night show he was seated for dinner with four other people. Under Miami-Dade County’s rules for reopening, only four people are allowed at a table at a time, unless diners are from the same household, which pushes the limit to 10.

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Suarez’s appearance at the restaurant was first reported by Univision.

Social media posts from late Thursday, including Instagram, show people, without masks or with masks pulled down, partying at Swan. Large groups of unmasked people crowded the bar while servers wore masks.

Suarez’s office confirmed the mayor went to Swan for dinner Thursday evening, but said he was not part of any large gathering.

“He was not part of a party,” said Soledad Cedro, the mayor’s communications director. “He was there for dinner.”

When Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez allowed restaurants to reopen May 18, following lengthy closures due to the pandemic, he issued a set of rules to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. They include reducing restaurant capacity by 50 percent, keeping tables six feet apart and requiring customers to wear masks except when seated.

Bar service, except when used for in-house dining, is not permitted per an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis. Bars in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties must remain closed, while those elsewhere in the state were allowed to reopen this month.

“Bars must not be used as a waiting area,” Miami-Dade County’s restaurant guidelines state. “Absolutely no congregation will be permitted at bars.”

Video from Swan shows customers gathered at a bar. More than six people were seated at tables, separation between groups of guests was less than six feet, plexiglass wasn’t installed in one area where cash registers were located and at least 10 people were huddled around in dance areas and in front of a bar not wearing masks.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez at Swan on June 11. The picture reads, “Mayor of Miami having fun on Pasarela Thursday!!” Provided to the Miami Herald

Miami police said it received an anonymous call late Thursday night of possible guideline violations at the restaurant. A follow-up was done on Friday, but police did not file a report.

In a statement to Univision 23, Swan said it would take “immediate measures” to ensure social distancing can be observed at the restaurant.

“After receiving a lot of demand during various nights this week, we are taking immediate measures taking out additional tables and accommodating our clients with more distance,” the statement reads. “Swan continues to be the ideal place to eat now that more than 60 percent of the seats are in the exterior of the restaurant.”

Staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report

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