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Front Page » Top Stories » County Restaurant Sales Surpass Pre911 Levels

County Restaurant Sales Surpass Pre911 Levels

Written by on February 17, 2005

Restaurant revenues in Miami-Dade County grew 6.5% last year from 2003 and 22.5% from before 9/11, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors bureau.

The county recorded $3.1 billion in taxable sales at eateries, compared to $2.9 billion in 2003, according to the Florida Department of Revenue. The county had $2.4 billion in restaurant sales in 2000, the year before the 9/11 terrorist attacks sent the economy into a tailspin.

"We estimate one-third of these sales are generated by tourists," said Bill Talbert, president of the visitors bureau. "It shows tourism is our No. 1 industry."

South Beach restaurants accounted for 35% to 40% of revenues in Miami-Dade and had their bets year ever, according to the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant Association. South Beach eateries had sales of $51 million in August, up from $39.9 million in August 2001.

"Overall, business is good. It’s going to become even better this coming weekend with the Miami Boat Show," said David Kelsey, president of the South Beach association.

Despite the big numbers, some owners said restaurants are being hurt by rising taxes and rents in Miami Beach.

Leonardo Marchini, owner of Da Leo Italian Trattoria, said restaurants on Lincoln Road pay $10,000 to $30,000 in monthly rent.

"In a nutshell, we are doing better due to the increase in tourists. But on the other hand, because the city has doubled the tax on outdoor space and rents have tripled, we are making the same as after Sept. 11 (2001)," said Mr. Marchini. "In order to pay skyrocketing taxes and rent, we have to do as much volume as we can. The city has to realize that if the cafes and restaurant shut down, Lincoln Road could go back to what it was 10 to 12 years ago."

Mr. Kelsey said there continues to be a 30% drop in business during the summer. "Unfortunately, our business is seasonal," he said. "We are slowly changing into a year-round destination."

To offset losses in the summer, Mr. Talbert said, the bureau will promote events in August such as Miami Spice Month. The fourth year of the program will involve 60 area restaurants, he said. He said August is becoming the third-busiest month for China Grill, a restaurant on Fifth Street in Miami Beach.

Among the most popular areas for restaurants, according to the South Beach association, are Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road. Other areas doing well are Alton Road and Sunset Harbor.

The Beach accounts for 70% of the county’s food and beverage business. Some of the top performers are Prime 112 on Ocean Drive and Tiramisu, Graziano Trattoria and Spris on Lincoln Road.