For Miami Beach resident Mali Parkerson, preparing for Memorial Day weekend is a bit like getting ready for a hurricane.
“You either evacuate, or you board yourself in your house,” she said.
While the entertainment district of the Beach will thump with music and swell with crowds this weekend, many locals will flee or stay home. Some businesses will struggle, and others won’t even bother to open. Closed roads, busy traffic and sometimes rowdy crowds are to blame for the exodus, locals say.
On Friday afternoon, 34-year-old Parkerson loaded her Mini Cooper with Fresh Market groceries for the weekend — bottled water, fruits and veggies, and two bottles of wine — and planned to stay indoors.
“I’m not down with the violence,” that happens Memorial Day weekend, she explained.
Susan Rodman has only lived in Miami Beach for a month, but neighbors, many of whom have skipped town, have warned her about this weekend. Beckman chose to stay, but she’s planning ahead.
“I have to visit family tomorrow, so the adjustment I’m making is taking my dog,” she said.
When she goes to see family in Coral Springs, Oliver, her Jack Russell Terrier, is coming with her. Rodman doesn’t want her pooch to end up home alone if she gets stuck in traffic.
Business has been slow since Thursday on West Avenue, where locals usually stroll with their pups and enjoy dinner at sidewalk cafes.
Two customers sat outside Oliver’s Bistro Friday afternoon, sipping coffee and apple juice. Bistro owner Hagen Taudt sat at the bar inside the empty eatery, taking advantage of the lull to catch up on bills.
Blocking off the causeways makes it hard for people to get to him, and “a lot of local customers left town,” he said.
While Ocean Drive sees plenty of action Memorial Day weekend, the cash register doesn’t necessarily ring at all restaurants and hotels.
Thursday night, when two ladies stopped to look at the menu at the end of the block, a host at the Carlyle Hotel ran down towards them to try and convince them to stay. He even offered a free meal to a potential customer if he sat outside. Nearby, Spiga, an Italian restaurant on 12th Street and Collins Avenue, began hauling tables inside around 11 p.m. Thursday. Owner Roberto Legrand said they’d be closed for the week.
Even businesses that don’t cater to the party crowd can suffer.
Mark Drobiarz owns ABC Bartending School in Miami Beach. After getting stuck in traffic Friday afternoon while on his way to the school, he called up his employees, who were waiting for their checks.
“I told them, ‘I’m sorry; I can’t get there. There’s nothing I can do to get you your payroll today,” he said
The school, on Ninth Street and Alton Road, holds classes over the holiday weekend — if students can fight through the traffic to make it there.
“It does interrupt our day and it does affect any prospective students from coming,” Drobiarz said. “We don’t get a prospective student walking through the door on Memorial Day. Ever.”
Playwright Irish Pub on 13th Street was silent during happy hour Friday evening, with seven people compared to the usual 70.
“We’re losing more money than making,” said manager Russo Metreveli.
Metreveli, who has seen the last six Memorial Day weekends, said business is always terrible and the problem is twofold.
Partygoers “don’t want to come here. They don’t spend money, because they’re looking for the cheapest drinks.”
The second problem: the pub is a popular spot for locals, who generally stay away this weekend.
“Everybody is leaving town,” she said. “I would I could.”