Miami Beach commissioners will let the voters decide if they want to limit late night alcohol sales on Ocean Drive that many say are fueling rowdy behavior and increasingly deadly violence on the iconic street.
Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to support a ballot referendum this November that will ask voters if alcohol sales at outdoor venues on Ocean Drive should be stopped at 2 a.m. instead of the current 5 a.m. closing.
If voters approve the measure it could significantly reduce revenues at several of Miami Beach’s major tourist destinations like Mango’s Tropical Café and the Clevelander, which pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city every year in resort taxes, according to property owners.
The commission vote followed several shootings that paralyzed traffic on Miami Beach over Memorial Day weekend including the fatal shooting of a Miami-Dade man who was killed in an argument over a parking space.
Mayor Philip Levine, who has long advocated a 2 a.m. closing for Ocean Drive outdoor establishments, told commissioners the problem of violence on Ocean Drive is not limited to holidays like Memorial Day, but is now a problem “52 weeks a year.” Levine said that while the city spent $818,812 on police patrols on Ocean Drive last year after 2 a.m., it only collected $197, 892 in resort taxes on sales made between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. He also said statistics show that crime is actually down overall in the area due to increased police patrols, but that five out of 10 officers assigned to Ocean Drive over the past six weeks have been injured on the job.
But former Mayor Neisen Kasdin, who represents several Ocean Drive establishments, told The Real Deal it’s up to elected officials to make decisions about hours of operation for businesses and “not abrogate that responsibility.” Kasdin said the measure, if passed, would only affect three businesses on Ocean Drive and that dozens of other businesses on the street would be allowed to sell alcohol indoors until 5 a.m.
Saying “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.,” commissioner Joy Malakoff said a measure to ban late night outdoor alcohol sales was long overdue. Commissioner Michael Grieco said he was concerned about potential job losses and negative publicity that could result from the ballot measure, but he said he would support it. Commissioner Ricky Arriola said the ballot measure “was not a silver bullet, but a possible step in the right direction.”
Commissioners on Wednesday also took other steps to try and improve conditions on Ocean Drive, approving a first reading of a measure that would remove a noise ordinance exemption on Ocean Drive, and a measure that will limit package store liquor sales in the area from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Commissioners also approved a first reading of an ordinance sponsored by Ricky Arriola that would create an overlay district for Ocean Drive designed to protect the “character” of the street by banning check cashing and convenience stores, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, palm readers and and souvenir and t-shirt shops that have proliferated on the street in recent years.
Arriola said the proposed overlay district was in line with a 10-point plan adopted recently by a Blue Ribbon Commission that was tasked with finding ways of cleaning up Ocean Drive. He said establishing an overlay district could help city officials get back control of “10 blocks of our cherished street.”