After temporarily shutting down as a result of the Zika virus outbreak in Wynwood and parts of surrounding neighborhoods, a local business operating on vacant land co-owned by David Lombardi is open again.
The Wynwood Yard, an outdoor food and entertainment venue at 56 Northwest 29th Street, had been closed since August 2nd following confirmation of more than a dozen cases of people infected with Zika by local borne mosquitoes in a one-square-mile area north of downtown Miami that includes the trendy neighborhood, and parts of Midtown, Edgewater and the Design District. The U.S. Center for Disease Control also issued a travel warning to pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant to avoid traveling to those neighborhoods. Zika has been linked to birth defects in unborn fetuses.
At a special meeting of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, or BID, on Wednesday, The Wynwood Yard CEO and founder Della Heiman said she closed her establishment, which has a bar, a vegetable garden and two food vendors in all-outdoor setting, in order to devise a plan to provide a safe and secure environment for her employees and guests. Heiman also contacted the Florida Department of Health to obtain voluntary Zika testing for her employees.
“Financially it was excruciating,” Heiman said. “But I felt it was the ethical thing to do.”
Heiman confirmed that one employee tested positive for Zika.
The Wynwood Yard is reopening one day after Health Department officials announced four new cases of the mosquito-borne illness in the one-square-mile area. Employees will be providing patrons with mosquito repellent and making sure there is no standing water, she added.
“We are putting in a lot of prevention measures,” Heiman said. “Thankfully, we haven’t had any new cases.”
Heiman’s outdoor venue is located on a 6,900-square-foot lot that was purchased by Barretto Properties LLC in 2003 for $172,500, according to the Miami-Dade County property appraiser. Today, the property has an assessed market value of $1.7 million. Corporate records list Lombardi, a BID board member who owns multiple Wynwood properties, as one of the managers of Barreto.
While The Wynwood Yard was the only business to close in the past week, other restaurant and bar owners in the neighborhood have complained that the massive amount of news coverage about the outbreak, as well as the spraying of toxic insecticides in the neighborhood, is keeping visitors away.
When BID board member Albert Garcia, chief operating officer of Wynwood shoe wholesaler and property owner Mega Shoes, asked how many attendees had experienced 50 to 60 percent drops in business activity, more than half the people in the room raised their hands.
“That is a large figure,” Garcia said. “There is a clear and present danger to the employees, their families and the patrons who come to enjoy the businesses here.”
Despite the slowdown in retail activity in Wynwood, developer and BID board member David Polinsky said the Zika outbreak and the corresponding media coverage has not affected real estate in the neighborhood.
“There has been no discussion about changes in rent, rent reductions or leases being canceled,” Polinsky said. “I haven’t heard that from anybody.”