Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday waded into a contentious debate about whether to ban most alcohol sales on Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Street after 2 a.m.
Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine said he will propose an ordinance that will restrict alcohol sales on the iconic street at the September city commission meeting, but an initial discussion of the proposed ordinance on Wednesday generated little support for the measure.
The ordinance would not affect indoor bars and nightclubs — largely those located inside hotels, but it would effectively shut down large nightclubs and restaurants like Mango’s Tropical Café, Wet Willies and the Clevelander after 2 a.m.
At a packed commission chambers, workers from bars and restaurants that would be affected by the measure voiced loud opposition to the proposal and most commissioners expressed doubts that it would have any effect on escalating crime and disorderly conduct that residents and many business owners say has spiraled out of control in recent years.
Police say they have carried out 330 arrests on Ocean Drive over the last five months and 116 arrests in the last two weeks, but that crime is down about 20 percent over the past year. Police Chief Daniel Oates says there are currently eight officers assigned to an Ocean Drive squad and he asked commissioners for more support to boost police presence on the street.
David Wallack, the owner of Mango’s Tropical Café, who is strongly opposed to the Mayor’s proposal, told The Real Deal that more police are needed. “I’m not going to say we have no police. We have a great police force. But it’s sporadic as to the coverage out there,” Wallack said. “When you have thousands and thousands out enjoying themselves, how can you not have police?”
City officials say banning alcohol sales after 2 a.m. on the street would result in the loss of about $19 million in revenue to bars and restaurants affected by the proposed ordinance and the loss of about $400,000 in resort taxes to the city, something Mayor Levine said Miami Beach could absorb. The mayor cautioned that doing nothing could result in the situation getting worse.
“My deep concern is that this is becoming the model of decay of our city,” said Levine, who added that other cities like Fort Lauderdale and New York have taken similar measures that have benefited residents and tourists alike. “It’s not the intent of this ordinance to kill the party, but to make the party softer,” he said.