Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miami media get all sentimental over the closing of Jumbo's and miss part of the story

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Miami Herald, July 23, 2014.
(Click to enlarge. )
Landmark restaurant Jumbo's is serving up its last plate of shrimp today.

The eatery, a Miami mainstay at NW 7th Ave. and 75th Street, is shutting down after almost 60 years in business.

And every single media outlet in town is covering the story. The restaurant's closing even made page one of today's New York Times.

But it would be an understatement to say that much of the coverage of Jumbo's closing is a bit mawkish. (See Calvin Hughes' report above for proof of just how mawkish.)

There's no denying that owner Bobby Flam broke ground in the 1967 or 1968 when he bucked the trend in Miami and hired three black workers.

And in the video below, Flam explains that in early 1968 he stopped the practice of forcing black customers to order their food at Jumbo's back door.

But what's not mentioned in any of this week's coverage of Jumbo's closing is that downtown Miami lunch counters were integrated in August 1960.

(Integration of Dade County schools began as early as 1959.)

Flam was a little late to the party.


WTVJ news film of integration of downtown 
Miami lunch counters in Aug. 1960.


Also missing from the fawning and syrupy coverage of the past few days is the fact that for years, Jumbo's was not exactly a groundbreaker when it came to restaurant cleanliness.

In 1973, a WTVJ cub reporter named Bob Mayer followed Dade County restaurant inspectors around Miami for a series of reports he called "Not On the Menu."

One inspector told Mayer that a meat slicer at Jumbo's hadn't been cleaned in a year. Mayer closed out his report by noting that the inspectors had given Jumbo's a sanitation rating of "filthy."

Mayer returned to Jumbo's with inspectors a few days later and interviewed Flam, who astonishingly told him that he wasn't aware of how to "maintain cleanliness" in a restaurant.

Jumbo's manager Bobby Flam being interviewed in 1973 on his
restaurant's lack of cleanliness. "I wasn't aware of what to do."

But that was then.

Forty years later, as the saying goes, "old habits are hard to break.

On September 27 of last year, State restaurant inspectors temporarily shut down Jumbo's after citing the place for 37 violations that included things like rodent activity.

And just last March, inspectors found 27 violations - 8 of them "high priority."

I'm sure Jumbo's regulars will miss the place, but the sad fact is this dump should have been closed 10 years ago.

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