Last call? Miami Beach proposal would ban future standalone and rooftop bars on Ocean Drive

City commissioners give preliminary approval to commercial changes in the Art Deco Historic District

Miami /
Apr.April 22, 2021 11:30 AM
The Commercial changes are aimed at the Art Deco Historic District. (Getty)

The Commercial changes are aimed at the Art Deco Historic District. (Getty)

Miami Beach’s strategy for killing the rowdy, at times violent, party atmosphere on Ocean Drive and nearby Collins Avenue involves curtailing development of future standalone and rooftop bars.

The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a slate of commercial changes aimed at revamping the Art Deco Historic District into a neighborhood that attracts long-term office tenants and residents, while reforming Ocean Drive’s reputation as an anything-goes tourist destination.

The proposal includes:

  • A prohibition on standalone bars. Properties would only be allowed to have bars as an accessory to a restaurant use or if a bar is located in a hotel lobby.
  • Commercial rooftops would be limited to restaurants, residential, office or hotel guest amenities.
  • A requirement that venues with indoor entertainment get a conditional use permit if their occupancy is less than 200 people.
  • Creating artisanal retail and experiential retail uses that would encourage landlords to sign leases with local businesses and entrepreneurs who make and sell consumer-oriented goods, food, works of art, clothing and personal care items.

City commissioners also passed an ordinance on first reading that would eliminate off-street parking fees charged to developers that build residential additions to properties on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue between First Street and 16th Street. Both the commercial use restrictions and the off-street parking measure will be up for a final vote on May 12.

To help persuade his colleagues to support the commercial restrictions, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber invited Miami Beach resident and nationally renowned urbanist Richard Florida to speak about why Ocean Drive cannot solely depend on tourism.

“These problems [on Ocean Drive] have been getting worse and worse every year,” Florida said. “When you have a glut of cheap hotel rooms and [short-term rental] apartments, you get a race to the bottom. The entertainment district and the overtourism that plagues it calls into question what are we really building here.”

While the measures passed unanimously on first reading, commissioner Ricky Arriola warned that eliminating future development of standalone and rooftop bars may not be the silver bullet that fixes Ocean Drive.

“My concern with some of this legislation is that it will make it worse,” Arriola said. “We could get more inferior retail, more inferior hotels and worse bars and nightclubs.”

Arriola said he is more concerned with a proliferation of tattoo parlors, vape shops, liquor stores and CVS pharmacies on Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue that “don’t contribute to the betterment of the area.”

Representatives for some Ocean Drive bars also cautioned commissioners about instituting bans on certain commercial uses.

“Blanket prohibitions are not solutions,” said Alexander Tachmes, a lobbyist for the Clevelander South Beach. “What we cannot accept is a blanket policy that ends this and ends that.”


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