My friends have heard me often speak about my rather schizophrenic relationship with Florida. I mostly love it, especially the times I’ve spent in leading LGBTQ havens like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Key West. However, there are moments when forced to look at my Floridian peeps and seriously ask WTF?
One of those moments in now, as news broke this morning that amid the still out-of-control pandemic, one of Fort Lauderdale’s largest night life venues – The Wharf, reopened and welcomed a massive crowd of mask-less partygoers.
The venue had been shuttered for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, but reopened Friday night as if everything was fine, serving booze as young partiers drank, ate, danced, and hung out with zero effort made for social distancing.
The Wharf is now the target of public outrage as multiple videos and photos began popping up on social media, showing their opening night and Saturday night, both of which boasted hundreds of patrons whooping it up as if we are no longer in a global health crisis. We are, and Florida of all states needs to take this matter more seriously as it is one of the nation’s leading areas of consistently spiking COVID-19 infections. In Florida, new cases of the virus for the week are up 49% compared to a week ago. There were 8,410 new cases reported Saturday.
People need guidance from responsible leaders in times of crisis. Florida Governor and Trump sycophant Ron DeSantis has been nearly as negligent as Trump himself, sloppily navigating the sunshine state through this deadly ordeal. DeSantis mocks the wearing of masks, has refused to implement state-mandated shut-ins, and has basically allowed many businesses to remain open if they provide masks – yet has offered no strategy for enforcing the masks be worn. This is all of great concern to the nation’s top health officials who view this lackluster response in a major tourism state to be disastrous.
According to Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, Dale Holness, Broward County Commissioner, and former County Mayor rebuked The Wharf for its irresponsibility,
“It’s frightening. It’s insane. I expect people to be more conscious of the effect this disease is having on our lives.”
As also reported by the Sentinel, Dr. Ralph Levy, a resident who lives near The Wharf, happened to walk past the establishment around 9 p.m. Friday. He shared that he was in disbelief by what he saw,
“As a doctor who has gone through this since March, it was disheartening,” he said. “The place was packed; everybody was close together.”
On the one hand, I commend The Wharf Fort Lauderdale and its sister location, The Wharf Miami, for voluntarily closing much of the year. However, when both establishments announced they’d be reopening this past weekend, they were to do so with safety protocols in place. Reportedly there was even a remodeling effort made to allow for social distancing and a plan for a limited capacity.
Based on the looks of it, the Wharfs’ parent company Breakwater Hospitality Group has failed miserably on all fronts, and it’s only appropriate that they be called out for it.
I understand that we are fatigued by living amid the coronavirus, with all the restrictions placed upon us, but one of the most simple things to combat this illness is wearing a mask. I’ll never understand why it seems then that so many people would rather wear a body bag instead.