In a move some bar and restaurant operators said would not deter boorish, intoxicated behavior by visitors to Ocean Drive, the Miami Beach City Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to ban the sale of alcohol from 2 to 8 a.m. at all sidewalk cafes.
The measure, which takes effect on May 30 and was championed by Mayor Philip Levine, will impact restaurants and bars at several signature Ocean Drive properties, including the Clevelander Hotel, the Hotel Victor South Beach, the Pelican Hotel Miami Beach, and the Colony Hotel.
“The 2 a.m. last call is not the end all to cleaning up Ocean Drive,” Levine said minutes before the vote. “It is the first step in a long journey in bringing it back to its iconic nature.”
The mayor first introduced his proposal, which initially included all patios and outdoor bars, as well as sidewalks, at the city commission’s meeting last month. He compared Ocean Drive to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which is known for a nightlife steeped in rowdy drunken behavior.
The police chief, Dan Oates, also claimed violent crime in South Beach spikes between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The current last call at most nightclubs and bars is at 5 a.m.
However, some sidewalk cafe owners complained the measure would not curb crime.
“I think it’s putting lipstick on a pig,” said Kyle Eldridge, owner of a Johnny Rockets on Ocean Drive. “I have seen Ocean Drive deteriorating, but I don’t think this is going to solve anything.”
Eldridge, whose restaurant has eight sidewalk tables and a liquor license, said rolling back last call to 2 a.m. would hurt his bottom line. “I am going to be negatively impacted,” he said. “There are ordinances in place right now that aren’t being enforced.”
David Wallack, owner of Mango’s Tropical Cafe and vice-chairman of the Ocean Drive Improvement Association, told commissioners the city would accomplish more by cracking down on scofflaws. “We have one cafe operator with over 39 violations and he is still operating,” Wallack said. “And a second package liquor store has opened on Ninth Street that is a bird feeder for criminals and the people you want to get rid of.”
Still, Levine insisted the new ordinance would alleviate many of problems on Ocean Drive. “We can’t allow reckless operators to tarnish our brand worldwide,” he said. “As mayor, I am not prepared to allow that to happen.”