Miami Beach board backs early last call for bars, restaurants

Clockwise from left: Foxhole Lounge, Bodega, Ricky's, and the Firestone
Clockwise from left: Foxhole Lounge, Bodega, Ricky's, and the Firestone

In spite of protests from nightlife attorneys and the nephew of a prominent developer, Miami Beach’s Land Use and Development Committee backed the passage of an ordinance that will restrict the hours of operation for new bars opening on the west side of South Beach.

If the proposed ordinance is passed, future bars and alcohol-serving restaurants must close by 2 a.m. if they’re located on the west side of Alton Road from Fifth Street to the Collins Canal and within 100 feet of the south side of 17th Street from Meridian to Lenox Avenue in the Palm View Historic District. Right now, alcohol establishments in those areas, like most of South Beach, can stay open until 5 a.m.

“Nothing good happens in a restaurant after 2 a.m. except drinking,” said Commissioner Joy Malakoff, one of three Miami Beach commissioners who make up the Land Use Committee. Malakoff said the code is meant to protect the West Avenue corridor’s 10,000 residents from the impacts of South Beach nightlife.

But nightlife advocates fear the law will send a message to entrepreneurs not to invest in South Beach. “I am advising people to buy stock in Surfside,” said attorney Steve Polisar who claimed that the new law would send a message to restaurants and bars wishing to set up in Miami Beach that the city may move to restrict them.

The proposed code won’t affect bars and restaurants already open in western West Avenue and Palm View. Establishments not yet open that have already received building permits are also immune under the current draft of the ordinance. However, future establishments with signed leases or still in the midst of permitting will be beholden to the new regulations.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Jared Galbut, managing principal of Menin Hospitality and the nephew of Crescent Heights managing principal Russell Galbut, is afraid the new code will stop his plans to open two new late night eateries in the Palm View district. Both places are still in midst of the permitting process.

One of those restaurants, a barbeque and bar called Ricky’s, is slated to open next to Bodega, another Menin Hospitality establishment operating at 1220 16th Street. Both Bodega and the future Ricky’s are located in a building owned by Crescent Heights, purchased as part of a $14.5 million transaction with Twin City LLC in August 2013.

The other eatery and bar is proposed to open in the Firestone building at 1575 Alton Road, which another Crescent Heights subsidiary bought for $10 million at the end of December. Jared Galbut told the Land Use Committee that he wants to re-open his great-grandfather’s old diner, Al’s, inside the Firestone building.

But Gayle Durham, co-founder of the West Avenue Neighborhood Association, said the Firestone building is really going to be converted into a pseudo nightclub. “They are going to have outdoor drinking at five o’clock in the morning,” said Durham, who also complained about the noise and drunken crowds generated by Bodega.

Besides rolling back licenses by three hours in western Alton Road and Palm View, the proposed code will shut down sidewalk cafes by midnight, shutter rooftop bars by 11 p.m. (midnight on weekends), ban outdoor bar counters, and prohibit special events. Also, nightclubs that play amplified music or have live entertainment must be approved by the Miami Beach Planning Board.

A proposed ordinance must be approved twice by the full Miami Beach City Commission before it can be enacted as law. The ordinance’s first reading is April 13. The second reading could come as soon as May 21.