Miami Beach elected officials failed to reach a consensus on the perfect cocktail for banning booze sales after 2 a.m. across the city, leaving bar, restaurant and nightclub owners on the waiting list for the new prohibition.
The city commission approved four competing proposals on first reading on Wednesday and will have a final vote in April to decide which one fulfills the will of Miami Beach residents. In the November city election, nearly 57 percent of voters said yes to a non-binding question asking them to move up the last call for citywide alcohol sales by three hours from 5 a.m.
In a proposal sponsored by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, the city would create a process that allows bars, restaurants and nightclubs in specific geographic areas of the city to apply for extended hours beyond the 2 a.m. cut-off. Among them: neighborhoods with oceanfront hotels with more than 200 rooms, as well as properties on the east side of Collins Avenue from 15th Street to 46th Street, buildings on Washington Avenue between 5th Street and Lincoln Road and properties in the Collins Park neighborhood.
The proposed legislation also offered a carve-out for businesses in the Art Deco Cultural District, including Ocean Drive. However, Gelber, whose reelection campaign hinged on his promise to redevelop Ocean Drive and clean up the crime in the Art Deco Cultural District, was adamant that he does not support giving exemptions to any businesses on the city’s famous street.
“There is a huge desire to reimagine that area,” Gelber said. “No exceptions. That is it. If we don’t do that, we slap the face of residents who believe that is what we’re doing.”
Owners of two longtime Ocean Drive watering holes, The Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Mango’s Cafe, bankrolled a campaign against the 2 a.m. referendum, while prominent developers like Starwood Capital Group’s Barry Sternlicht backed a political action committee for the roll-back of hours
Commissioner Mark Samuelian sponsored two proposals that only targeted the Art Deco Cultural District. The first would limit the 2 a.m. last call to a geographic area bounded by Euclid Avenue on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, 16th Street on the north, and 5th Street on the south. The second would roll back booze sale hours on Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Espanola Way in South Beach.
And commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez proffered an ordinance that would prohibit the city from allowing any new businesses to operate with 5 a.m. liquor licenses. The measure would exempt existing “alcoholic beverage establishments with a valid business tax receipt issued prior to March 20, 2022.” Those businesses would be allowed to continue to sell booze until 5 a.m.
After complaints from Gelber and commissioner David Richardson about grandfathering existing bars and nightclubs, Rosen Gonzalez agreed to tweak her proposed legislation so that the exemption will only remain in effect until the city commission has a final vote on the 2 a.m. last call implementation.