With the threat of Irma bearing down on Miami Friday, a lone bar sat unprotected among its boarded up neighbors, serving customers in an act of defiance against the impending storm. The Boulevard Hotel on South Beach's famed Ocean Drive was still filling up patio tables and serving drinks to customers as of Friday evening as some in Miami decided to enjoy the last hours before Irma's arrival. Guests chatted and laughed, some telling Circa it felt like an ordinary day, just with less crowds.
Sharmaine Figueroa and Maru Bolanos spent the afternoon skateboarding along Ocean Drive, capping off the trip with a visit to the bar, one of the only establishments actually operating Friday. Most of the Art Deco district had been heavily boarded up, with windows taped and lobbies emptied. The pair said they were making the most of the rare empty streets.
"If everybody is taking it so serious, I probably should too," Bolanos said. "But I'm enjoying it while this lasts."
Boulevard's manager Arudi Ramirez was all smiles, warmly greeting customers. He indicated business had been slow but they had a mission, "We might as well feed the ones who want to be here." Ramirez prepared his own home before showing up to work, readying a key supply: his kayak. And the bar had to do its own preparation, with Ramirez indicating they planned to close by 9pm Friday to get ready for the storm. (**UPDATE - Boulevard Hotel was closed as of Saturday morning.)
But the scene was eerie along Ocean Drive on the last night before the city started seeing any hint of Irma's arrival, with the hotel's famous neon lights shining on a nearly empty street. Figueroa and others who braved the increasing winds were marveling at the sight. She said, "It's freaky a little bit because all the time I've been living here, it's the only time I've seen Miami like that, all the way closed."
As of Saturday morning, the threat of Irma appeared to be diminishing for South Beach.