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Wynwood Yard closes over Zika scare; happy hour and food tours also shutter

Zika's sting closes a Wynwood business

The Wynwood Yard decided on August 2, 2016 that it would be closing its business until further notice due to the number of Zika cases in the area, especially since it is a fully outdoor business.
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The Wynwood Yard decided on August 2, 2016 that it would be closing its business until further notice due to the number of Zika cases in the area, especially since it is a fully outdoor business.

Zika is taking a bite out of Wynwood’s outdoor food scene.

The outdoor patios of restaurants and bars in Wynwood have long been a draw for customers. But with reports of 13 new locally transmitted Zika virus cases contracted in Miami in recent days, primarily in Wynwood, they’ve become a liability.

Several outdoor businesses have said they are closing indefinitely because of Zika.

The Wynwood Yard, a popular outdoor space on Northwest 29th Street that holds events and has a restaurant, Della Test Kitchen, announced Tuesday that it will be closed until further notice. The group of vendors who comprise the venue made the decision together out of an “abundance of caution” to protect customers, a spokeswoman for Wynwood Yard told the Miami Herald. They are monitoring the CDC updates, she said.

“We’re the only 100 percent outdoor venue in the neighborhood,” spokeswoman Trina Sargalski said. “For now, we’re not announcing a date for reopening.”

Classes at the venue will be rescheduled. The Naked Bite class will now be held Aug. 31, with updates available on the class website, and the Essential Oils class will be rescheduled for a later date.

Stephan Guttenbrunner, a 27-year-old Austrian flight attendant who was in Miami for only 48 hours, had rented a bike near his South Beach hotel to pedal over to the Yard for vegan fare at Della Test Kitchen. Sweaty from the ride, he was disappointed to see it closed.

He had only briefly heard of Zika the night before. The Florida Department of Health announced Monday that 14 new locally transmitted Zika cases had been confirmed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties: 12 in Miami-Dade (primarily in Wynwood) and two in Broward. On Tuesday, the health department confirmed another new local case in Miami-Dade, bringing the total to 15 cases between the two counties. They are the first local cases in the nation.

“I just heard about it when I turned on the news last night on the TV,” he said.

The nonprofit group “Make the Homeless Smile Miami” canceled its happy hour planned on Aug. 11 over Zika fears. It was planned at Brick, an outdoor Wynwood bar.

Miami Culinary Tours has canceled its twice-a-day weekend restaurant and art tours in Wynwood on Friday and Saturday until further notice.

Its founder, Grace Della, said two separate parties — nearly 70 people — had called to cancel their reservations for this weekend and were given refunds. One was a bachelorette party.

“They said some in their group are trying to get pregnant, so they don’t want to risk it,” Della said.

Pregnant women are the most at risk of Zika, as the virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, has caused birth defects in newborns.

Another group of nearly 300 told her they are monitoring the situation and may cancel their late September reservations.

“That’s when I start to worry, when people out of state say, ‘Miami? Maybe we should go somewhere else,’ ” Della said. “I don’t want to freak them out either.”

Della has called the Florida Department of Health to stay up to date for what to tell her clients. Until then, her company will only conduct the food tours in Little Havana and South Beach, as usual.

“Everything is on hold,” she said. “We’re all waiting to see what happens.”

As Miami-Dade mosquito inspectors continue to spray the Zika infested areas of Wynwood, Miami Police also lent a hand on Tuesday, passing out mosquito spray to homeless people in the area.

But she is hopeful at seeing government workers spraying and setting traps “on almost every corner” as she walks down Wynwood.

“I’m waiting to hear that they have everything under control,” she said.

On Tuesday, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said just that.

“I think Wynwood now is the safest place in South Florida,” he said, “because they’ve fumigated.”

He plans on touring Wynwood Wednesday with a group of local business people to reinforce the safety of the area. Similarly, the Wynwood Business Improvement District is encouraging visitors to take the CDC-recommended precautions but to not stay away.

“The Wynwood Arts District’s restaurants, galleries, and retailers remain open for business,” Albert Garcia, vice chairman of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, wrote to the Herald in an email. “While we understand Wynwood Yard’s decision to close for the time-being, the remaining 300 businesses that make up the unique and vibrant fabric of the neighborhood continue to operate as usual. We welcome the public to visit the area and … enjoy all that Wynwood has to offer.”

At two indoor-outdoor favorites, Wood Tavern and Gramps, it’s business as usual.

The popular Wood says it has had an all-natural mosquito misting system installed for more than a year and has “pretty much eliminated mosquitoes” in its large outdoor space. It has not canceled or rescheduled any of its events, such as its popular Taco Tuesdays.

“We have also taken all the proper precautionary measures in regards to puddles/still water,” owner Cesar Morales wrote to the Miami Herald in an email.

None of the deejays or bands that regularly book the outdoor spaces at Gramps have called to reschedule, owner Adam Gersten said. And customers continue to fill the large outdoor patio.

“Last night, we had rain and lightning and thunder and Zika, and we were still busy,” Gersten said. “Right now, we’re leaving things up to the customers.”

Miami Herald Staff Writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.

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