Miami Beach gave the green light to retailers to open their doors Wednesday, and city inspectors were out seeing if the business followed the rules and protected shoppers.
It was a new world on Lincoln Road — hand sanitizer stations and fences were set up to prevent sitting by the fountains. Twenty retailers — some small shops and some larger stores — reopened on Lincoln Road, and others are still closed.
For Code Enforcement Inspector Nehru Balgobin, Wednesday brought a busy day going from one store to another.
“We make sure that all our businesses have successful reopening," Balgobin said.
The inspectors are focused checking markings on the floors to encourage social distancing, if there's a place for customers and staff to dispose of masks, seeing if there’s enough sanitizer, and checking if the outlet isn’t over capacity. They are also answering questions from owners.
“Right now, we are not giving any violations. We’re just trying to educate — make sure everyone understands what guidelines they have to do, make sure they understand they have to do certain things to keep the store clean, keep the restrooms clean, keep all the surfaces that are touched clean,” Balgobin said.
Those who have been waiting to shop on Miami Beach are now able to. Robin Weiner spoke to us behind a colorful decorative mask.
“I am happy the lights are on. I’m a local. I am ready to support local businesses," Weiner said.
Inside Fritz’s Skate, Bike, and Surf — a store popular with bikers, rollerbladers and skateboarders — there were markings on the floors so customers would stay 6 feet away from each other as well as lots of hand sanitizer.
“We’ve got the wipes so we are fully in compliance. So, we are feeling pretty comfortable," said owner Gerald Bendheim.
The man who promotes businesses on Lincoln Road said that for over a century, the walking stretch of Miami Beach has survived, and it will come back from the COVID-19 shutdown, too.
"Since 1912, Lincoln Road has played a role in this community," said Tim Schmand, head of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District. "It came back after the 1926 storm. It came back after the Depression. It came back after World War II. It was a training ground for GI troops, and each time the community has asked Lincoln Road to play a role, it has played that role and we are going to do it again."
Lincoln Road will look different next Wednesday when its restaurants are allowed to open, taking up more space out in the walking areas. When it comes to food preparation, that’s a whole different set of conditions the code inspectors will be out checking.