Miami Beach moves toward banning chain restaurants and stores in Sunset Harbour

Commissioner Ricky Arriola said rule is necessary to prevent local businesses from being replaced by corporations willing to pay higher rent

Commissioner Ricky Arriola and an aerial of Sunset Harbour in Miami Beach (Compass)
Commissioner Ricky Arriola and an aerial of Sunset Harbour in Miami Beach (Compass)

A ban on chain retail stores and restaurants in South Beach’s Sunset Harbour is moving forward with the backing of three Miami Beach city commissioners.

The Miami Beach Land Use and Sustainability Committee — made up of commissioners Mark Samuelian, Michael Gongora, and Ricky Arriola — unanimously backed a proposed ordinance banning “formula” restaurants and stores during Tuesday’s meeting.

Arriola, who proposed the rule, said it is necessary to help prevent unique local businesses in Sunset Harbour from being replaced by corporate establishments willing to pay higher rents.

“The concerns I have and neighbors have, and certainly a lot of the commercial tenants, is that as the area gets more popular, we see rents rising and tenants forced out by landlords,” Arriola said. The commissioner said that out-of-town landlords are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic by trying to push out small businesses and “replace them with big-box retailers.”

The ordinance will forbid “formula commercial establishments” with 10 or more similar retail operations in the U.S. and “formula restaurants” with more than 75 identical establishments across the U.S. from opening within most of the Sunset Harbour Overlay District between Purdy Avenue, 20th Street, Alton Road and Dade Boulevard. The code also won’t let restaurants and stores with five other establishments within Miami Beach open within Sunset Harbour.

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However, the code won’t directly forbid a nationwide store or restaurant from opening in Sunset Harbour, said Rogelio Madan, an urban planner with the city of Miami Beach. Instead, Madan said the code will allow corporate chains to create a unique concept store for the Sunset Harbour area, one with different aesthetics, logos, and color schemes. The code will insist that prospective tenants submit an affidavit “certifying they are not a formula establishment.” If an establishment is in violation of the ordinance, the business will be shut down and its business tax receipt revoked.

A half-dozen South Beach residents and business owners spoke in favor of the ordinance, including Pam Nelson, who said the code will prevent Sunset Harbour from being overrun by large retail operations like Lincoln Road. “If the same thing that happened to Lincoln Road happens to Sunset, we would all be wondering how we could have let that happen,” she said.

Marilyn Freundlich of Sunset Harbour Drive didn’t think the code went far enough, noting that the prohibition of formula establishments didn’t include “perimeter commercial corridors” like Dade Boulevard and Alton Road. “We don’t want to end up with a big box [retail store] on those lots like, for example, a Home Depot,” she said. “We already have a Michaels there, and I think that is as big as we would like to see.”

Nick Kallergis, first assistant city attorney, explained that those streets already have a lot of formula establishments. “We drafted the legislation narrowly to promote and protect the unique character” found within the “interior of the neighborhood,” Kallergis said.

Madan said the city will look at other legislation that bans certain retail establishments from opening in Sunset Harbour, such as pawn shops, tattoo parlors, and convenience stores. The city may also look at limiting lot aggregation as a means of preventing developers from building a large retail operation in that area, he added.

The proposed ordinance will come before the city’s planning board on July 27. Once that board makes a decision, it will come before the full commission.