A local strip club could doom a Miami curfew to help contain the coronavirus pandemic in Florida’s largest county.
For the past several months, local regulations in Miami-Dade have required businesses to close in the early evening. This was a measure that district officials took to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But on Friday, a Miami-Dade judge ruled in favor of Tootsie’s strip club in Miami Gardens, which was suing the city, arguing that the club was allowed to stay open after the midnight lock.
In her ruling on Friday, Judge Beatrice Butchko wrote that the county’s regulations are in direct conflict with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis̵
“The Miami Dade curfew contradicts [DeSantis’ executive order] for banning Tootsie’s operation; They prohibit employees and contractors from working. and they reduce the capacity to zero for the entire curfew, ”wrote Butchko.
While the strip club made a somewhat unorthodox argument in court, apparently claiming that dance was an expression of a constitutionally protected freedom of speech that has been violated by the county, Friday’s ruling could still have a significant impact on businesses in the county.
Some observers believe the ruling could essentially lift the county’s curfew, allowing restaurants, nightclubs, and other businesses to stay open all night.
In a statement on Saturday, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the city would not enforce the curfew so as not to confuse local businesses. But like that Miami Herald notes that Miami-Dade County may decide to enforce the curfew, which could potentially bring the county into conflict with the judge’s order.
“We will not enforce the curfew tonight,” said Suarez. “In order not to cause confusion, we will only enforce the curfew when there is clarity.”
Florida is particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, the state reported over 4,000 new coronavirus cases and 87 deaths. Nearly 16,000 Floridians have died in the state since the pandemic began earlier this year.
Nevertheless, the state has pushed for the reopening with a few mandatory guard rails for residents against the virus.
Last month, DeSantis announced that the state would allow bars and restaurants to open at full capacity and override local rules and regulations that limit capacity. While it gave counties and cities some opportunities to continue setting restrictions, its order included a ban on local governments from enacting coronavirus rules that prevented people from working.
The governor has also refused to implement a masked mandate and appeared to be supporting large personal outdoor events that attended a Trump rally last week that allowed professional sports teams to hold games with thousands of fans.
After DeSantis gave his order, Tootsie immediately stopped following the curfew, said a club lawyer, James Benjamin Miami Herald. It allowed the club’s night workers to make a living, he said, but a club manager received a $ 500 quote from the county police for staying open one night.
Friday’s decision came just days after Miami-Dade County’s Mayor Carlos A. Giménez postponed the curfew from 10 p.m. to midnight.