The Clevelander Hotel bar—famous for hosting wild bachelor parties and spring break wet T-shirt fiestas—was the site of an unusual gathering this week: the landing of five Cuban migrants on neon-lit Ocean Drive.
After arriving on shore late Tuesday, the men walked across the sand and made the packed South Beach bar their first stop in South Florida.
‘‘They asked the night manager for asylum,’’ said Ryan Hammons, a supervisor.
Instead, they got beers, T-shirts and a round of applause.
‘‘Half the bar, three-quarters of the bar got up to see the guys,’’ said Luis Olivera, 30, a front desk clerk who was on duty that night.
Chad Landry, a 37-year-old salesman on a business trip from Central Florida, said he paid for the beers and Clevelander T-shirts because he was so moved.
‘I’ve always seen it on TV and I’ve always watched these guys coming over. These guys swim or take a boat and they have the law that if you make it to land, you can stay. One of them said, `We just came from Cuba.’ And we were, like, ‘Oh my God.’ ‘’
Bartenders called Miami Beach police, who turned over the group to the U.S. Border Patrol on Wednesday morning. ‘‘They were wet, they were shivering,’’ Olivera said.
But by the time police took them into custody at 11 p.m.—about 20 minutes after their arrival—all in the group appeared healthy and in good spirits, said Bobby Hernandez, a police spokesman.
‘‘They definitely didn’t look like they were on the ocean for a significant amount of time. They looked fine,’’ he said.
The five men have been identified as Jose Valdivia Quinones, 29; Andres Araluce, 41; Jorge Granado, 35; Berto Quinones, 28; and Miguel Angel Perez, 41.
‘‘They claimed they came over on a raft and that they were picked up offshore by a passerby boat and dropped off on 10th and the Beach,’’ Hernandez said.
He said the group was greeted by relatives at Miami Beach police headquarters and then taken into custody by Border Patrol at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Under the United States’ wet foot/dry foot policy, Cubans who land on U.S. soil are generally allowed to stay.
After being processed by Border Patrol officers at their Pembroke Pines offices, the group was taken to Krome detention center in West Miami-Dade County, said Robert Montemayor, a Border Patrol spokesman.
Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, could not predict how long the group would be held there.
‘‘We don’t speculate as to when they’re going to be released from our custody,’’ she said. Montemayor said the Border Patrol was investigating the circumstances surrounding the group’s arrival.