As malls, barbershops and restaurants open, many fear it’s too early

(Photo by Julian Quintana)

With approval from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, non-essential businesses throughout Miami-Dade began to reopen this week following guidelines set by Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s “New Normal’‘ Phase 1 plan. 

Some of the businesses that have started to open include: barber shops/salons, dine-in restaurants and malls. Many businesses have had to retrofit the way they operate. 

Nestor Santos, owner of Don Figaro barbershop at 11510 SW 147th Ave, described the new process of attending to customers this way.

“We started to open by doing appointments,” said Santos. “We take down customers’ phone numbers, and they wait in their cars until we call them in for their turn.” 

Inside, every barber chair is separated by six feet of space to comply with social-distancing rules. Each barber wears masks and gloves. In the morning, Santos sanitizes the entire shop. Outside, there is a sign prohibiting customers from entering without a mask.

But Santos has some concerns. 

“There is always going to be fear because there are a lot of people coming in,” he said. “I have six chairs and we’re working with four for now, but you never know.”

But Santos’s concern did not stop people from coming in and getting a haircut. According to the barber, on Monday the shop saw a turnout of about 30-40 people.

Alongside barber shops, restaurants throughout Miami-Dade are letting patrons eat inside; Earls Kitchen + Bar at Dadeland in Kendall is one of those restaurants. 

Nes Rayo, manager at Earls, ensures the public that Earls’ top priority is to be known as the safest place to dine and work. 

“Everything from your first point of contact to when you leave the restaurant is closely monitored,” said Rayo. “We’ve taken extreme steps to sanitize and ensure that things are being cleaned properly and everyone is healthy and safe here.”

Earls is taking reservations over the phone, through the app OpenTable and is allowing walk-ins. For walk-in appointments, there are markers spread six feet apart — just like grocery stores. Their waiting area is no longer in use. 

“We’re very much in control of the flow into the restaurant,” he said. “We are seating one group of guests at a time ensuring that guests are six feet apart at all times.”

Under the New Normal Plan, restaurants like Earls are limited to 50 percent capacity if they want to allow patrons inside. 

Malls are also reopening. Dolphin Mall announced plans to open back up starting on May 20 as well as providing a list of stores that is continually being updated.

As establishments continue to open up throughout Miami-Dade, how are people reacting to this decision?

In an informal, unscientific SFMN poll of 70 people, participants were asked to vote on whether they would visit these businesses.  

Below are the results.

Poll for the South Florida Media Network by Julian

Nathaly Hernandez, a retail worker at International Mall, was part of the majority, which holds businesses are opening too soon.

“In regards to the general health of the public, I don’t think we are at the point yet where people are comfortable enough to go to these places,” said Hernandez. “I don’t see myself going into a restaurant for a while.”

Currently, Miami-Dade has no timetable for reopening movie theaters, bowling alleys, gyms, tattoo parlors, pools and massage parlors.

Julian Quintana is Senior at Florida  International University pursuing a degree in journalism who is graduating in the spring. He has been reporting on stories in the town of Cutler Bay and wishes to pursue investigative journalism after graduation.