Founding Partner Robert Lewis Quoted by The Daily Business Review in "Miami-Dade Restaurants 'Disheartened' by Second Order to Close as COVID-19 Numbers Climb"

July 7, 2020

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez orders restaurants to suspend dining room service again, potentially dealing them a bigger blow than if they stayed closed all along.
By Lidia Dinkova | July 07, 2020 at 01:04 PM | LINK TO ARTICLE

Miami-Dade County restaurants were dealt a second — and potentially bigger — blow when the mayor ordered a halt to dining room operations in light of skyrocketing COVID-19 infections.

L-R:Dave Preston executive managing director – retail services of Colliers International, Robert F. Lewis co-founder of Spiritus Law, and Louis J. Terminello partner with Greenspoon Marder.

Mayor Carlos Giménez announced a second suspension of indoor dining starting Wednesday. Two hospitality attorneys said Monday’s order is an understandable move but may be a bigger blow to their clients than if they stayed closed all along.

“Most of them that I have spoken to in the last two hours seem to be very disheartened by this and feel like they were better off not opening up at all,” Louis Terminello, who chairs Greenspoon Marder’s hospitality, alcohol and leisure industry group, said shortly after the announcement.

Florida has recorded 213,794 cases of the coronavirus, confirming 7,361 new daily cases Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health. The state set several daily records last week when the number of infections exceeded 10,000, including 11,458 on July 4, the state’s single-day high.

Giménez also closed banquet halls, ballrooms and short-term rentals but allowed restaurant pickup, delivery and outdoor dining to stay open. In a tweet, he even suggested expanding outdoor options “when possible.” He shut down restaurant dining rooms in late March but allowed them to reopen in May at half capacity indoors and with a slew of other restrictions.

Those that reopened spent significant amounts to order food, goods and supplies, and some of that investment will be lost after roughly a month, said Rob Lewis, co-founder of Spiritus Law in Coral Gables.

Restaurants invested in safety measures such as Plexiglass installed in dining rooms to protect customers from potential coronavirus exposure, Lewis noted.
“I am sure restaurants had ordered sufficient inventory and supplies to meet the on-premise demand, and now this on-premise demand is gone,” he said. “Now it’s a step back. You are kind of back to square one.”

Allowing pickup and delivery is little consolation. During the original shutdown, pickup and delivery accounted for only a third of the normal restaurant sales, according to Dave Preston, Colliers International executive managing director for retail services in Miami.

“This is definitely a blow,” Preston said.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Greenspoon Marder attorney who contracted COVID-19 in March, tweeted a critique of Giménez’s latest order, saying it “caught everyone by surprise. Our communities need a clear strategy for a sustainable path to recovery. The decision making process should be transparent and driven by facts, not impulses. All leaders must communicate and collaborate more.”

Restaurants can’t redirect their stockpiled perishables when there’s a difference between dining room menus and the more limited pickup and delivery options, Terminello added.

“The menus are completely different,” he said. “They are in the process of retooling again, and they had already stockpiled the goods that were to be used for consumption on the premises, and some of it has shelf life limitations.”

Terminello said his clients started contacting suppliers soon after Monday’s announcement only to learn many won’t be accepting returns or exchanges.

“They are going to get stuck with product that has use limits because who knows how long this is going to go on for,” he said. “They are going to have to restock an entirely different product line for pickup and delivery. This whole retooling is not as simple as it looks. It’s not the same product. It’s a very frenzied time. It’s causing a further economic impact on the restaurant client.”

After the county allowed limited reopening in May and Miami followed suit, most restaurants didn’t reopen right away. There was a ramp-up time to buy food, bring staff back on the payroll and educate consumers on the precautions taken to keep them safe from the coronavirus.

“Most of them didn’t feel the benefit for two to three weeks after they were permitted to open up, and then immediately the rug is pulled from under them without any notice whatsoever,” Terminello said. “Here they are trying to retool and get ready for a second shutdown. It’s very difficult to conduct business — forget about profitable.”


About Spiritus Law:

Spiritus Law is an entrepreneurial regulatory and business law firm focused on the representation of highly regulated industries by offering legal services in the areas of alcohol and tobacco law, federal, state and local regulatory and business licensing, hospitality law and licensing, commercial and residential real estate development, land use and zoning, real estate transactions, government relations, banking and lending, general commercial retail including the retail sale of regulated products and public/private partnership transactions. The Firm is founded on traditional principles of client counseling and teamwork with a cutting-edge twist on regulatory innovation and modern problem-solving. Spiritus Law combines a unique blend of professionals, including attorneys, government consultants, licensing assistants and paralegals to assist its diverse clients. Our modern approach to transparent client representation and employee engagement defines our collaborative spirit and progressive energy.

Core Services:

Primary service areas include: Alcohol Licensing & Regulatory Compliance, Retail & Hospitality Licensing & Permitting, Real Estate Transactions & Commercial Development, Firearms & Security Compliance, Public/Private Infrastructure &Development, Tobacco Product Regulatory Compliance, and Business Transactions & Financial Services. Our firm services an array of highly regulated industries, including alcohol producers, sports teams, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, movie theaters, grocery stores, liquor stores, bars, residential and commercial real estate developers, state agencies, municipal governments, investment firms and individual investors, lending institutions, security service providers, firearms suppliers and more.