Hurricane Irma Shuts Down Miami LGBT Businesses for Days

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Photos by Jose Cassola.

While Hurricane Irma uprooted trees, flooded Brickell and left millions of South Floridians without power, cabin fever started to sink in for members of the Miami LGBT community. Gay establishments on South Beach -- including Twist, Score, Hotel Gaythering and Molto -- were closed for days, leaving their loyal patrons jonesing for a drink and a good time.

Twist on Washington Avenue, which recently celebrated its 24th anniversary, was the first and only LGBT venue to open Tuesday.

"We had to close for five days. Loss of business was significant," said Joel Stedman, a partner at Twist. "Of course, to be closed this many days is always a financial hit to any business. It's the longest we've been closed during any hurricane. But we're back. We're open. We're gonna be just fine.

"Thankfully, it was safe for us to open," Stedman continued. "We had electricity. And fortunately, we had staff who lived locally, who wanted to come back to work. We're so grateful the community came out to support us when we reopened. This is proof we have a supportive community and we can get through anything together."

Other LGBT businesses on the beach remained closed as of Tuesday, including Score.

"Score would've opened Tuesday but they implemented the 11 o'clock curfew, which I think is kind of ridiculous," said Charlie Dominguez, a bartender at Score. "I know our safety is a top priority, but these curfews are affecting the small businesses.

"The last time we were open was last Wednesday," Dominguez continued. "It was our straight techno night. And it was so busy. Really busy. I guess people were thinking 'let's dance until everything goes to pieces, basically," he laughs.

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Dominguez said Score was supposed to open on Thursday before the hurricane hit, but the city closed everything down.

"We've been closed ever since then," he said. "For Wilma, Katrina, all of those storms, we were open right away. This is the longest time Score has been closed. It's unprecedented. The sad part is that it's affecting our community. We need to support our local bars."

Among the local gay bars, Molto, like Score, was also still closed through Tuesday. The new drag bar, which officially opened last month, didn't have electricity until Wednesday and was scheduled to reopen at 4 p.m. that day.

"Not everything is just about business, but I would've definitely loved to be open during this time for the locals that needed a place to go," said Molto co-owner Raymond Ortega. "I feel as long as everyone is safe and alive, I'm happy. The City of Miami Beach is working hard to open South Beach again the fastest way they can, and that's good enough for me."

Patricia Noorzai, a Miami Beach resident who has been frequenting Twist for almost five years, said she was glad Twist was the first place to open after the hurricane passed.

"It's important for all the locals in the community to come together and be sure everyone is safe," Noorzai said. "We're thankful to owner Joel Stedman and Peter Morales to have Twist open in the aftermath of Irma to make it a safe haven for everyone."

Troy C. Kurtz, a resident and small business owner on Miami Beach, said Twist is "family" and he's happy they were able to open as soon as they could, given the curfew Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine implemented on the city and its residents.

"We don't like the curfew. Businesses need to open as soon as possible," Kurtz said. "They have employees, payroll. We live here. We're not looters or prisoners."

Kurtz said he practically lives at Twist. "It's my second home."


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