MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach is getting ready for a big weekend. More than 100,000 visitors are expected to fill the beach over the Memorial Day holiday.
Thursday night visitors had already arrived from all over the country and beyond. Jodie Williams and her friends came all the way from England. “Everyone told me it’s going to be mayhem,” she said.
The crowds and traffic congestion are enough to make some residents leave the beach for the weekend, but Jamie DeRosa hopes they ‘ll stick around. His restaurant, Tongue And Cheek will stay open through the holiday weekend.
“We’re trying to stay open to cater to the locals, regulars who have come and expect the place to be open for brunch,” he said.
He admits business was slow last year and thinks traffic changes are largely to blame.
“It was just a month after we opened. We tried to open Friday and Saturday – didn’t see much business then, and we decided to close Sunday and Monday,” he explained.
This year he’s scaled back staffing a little, but he hopes people will be used to the new traffic patterns and he’ll be able to attract locals and visitors. The restaurant will even open for brunch on Memorial Day although it’s usually closed on Mondays.
“We want to support the community activities and if that measns we need to stay open for Memorial Day weekend and support the tourists that are coming that are looking to have a good safe time.”
Showing visitors a good safe time is the goal for Miami Beach Police as well. About six hundred officers from the Beach and surrounding departments will be here this weekend. There will be license plate checks and a DUI checkpoint. Last year police say they made more than 400 arrests during the holiday weekend.
Sgt. Bobby Hernandez said, “It is a zero tolerance area. You’re not going to get away with stuff that you’d get away with on a regular weekend on Memorial Day weekend.”
Police are working out of a high-tech command post in the Miami Beach Convention Center. They’ll be able to monitor more than 30 live cameras for traffic issues or potential incidents. “We have cameras in certain hotspots or certain clubs which in the past have given us problems,” explained Detective Vivian Thayer, adding, “This way before the problem happens our officers can see from the command post. If there’s something brewing, the officers on the street know to respond to that area rather than waiting for the problem to happen.”
Police also have the help of hundreds of volunteers known as Goodwill Ambassadors who also work to stop potential problems before they start.
Ariel Urena is one of those volunteers. He said the role of the ambassadors is to “be basically like a buffer between the police officers and the crowd so basically calm down the crowd and help them out.”
Traffic and parking restrictions will be in effect throughout the weekend.
For crowd management purposes, a traffic loop will manage public traffic along 5 Street, Washington and Collins Avenues. Alton Road will remain two-way traffic. Barricades will restrict residential areas to “local traffic only” (residents may ask for Miami Beach ID). East/west streets (100 and 200 blocks) will be restricted between Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, 6 to 15 streets. Local residents with the properly zoned decals will be allowed to park.
– Ocean Drive will be closed Friday May 23, 7:00 a.m. through Tuesday, May 27, 7:00 a.m. Some access to the east/west streets (100 and 200 blocks) between Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, 6 to 15 streets, will also be restricted. Local residents with the proper zoned decals will be allowed to enter.
– Collins Avenue will be one-way northbound nightly 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. (Friday-Monday). No street parking will be allowed on Collins Avenue between 5 and 15 streets as those lanes will be used to extend pedestrian pathways. Valet operations will also be moved – guests should check with the hotel for location.
– Washington Avenue will be one-way southbound nightly 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. (Friday-Monday). Access to east/west streets between 5 and 17 streets will be restricted.
– Alleys must be maintained clear of vehicles at all times and will be strictly enforced.
– Causeways: DUI Checkpoint: 7:00 p.m. Friday to 5:00 a.m. Saturday. DUI saturation throughout the weekend. License plate readers nightly on causeways into Miami Beach.
– Bus Transportation: Miami-Dade Transit including The South Beach Local has numerous routes to, from and around the city.
– Special Parking: All city-owned parking lots and garages will have normal operations with the exception of South Pointe Park, Nikki Beach, and 46 Street lots ($25.00/visitors and $6.00/residents).
– Valet Ramp Relocations: Ocean Drive to the 100 blocks of 7, 9, 12, and 14 streets: Collins Avenue to the 200 blocks of 9, 10, 12, and 13 streets; and Washington Avenue to the 600 and 1200 blocks of Washington Avenue.
A Memorial Day ceremony will take place at 10:00 a.m., Monday May 26 at the Miami Beach Police Station located at 1100 Washington Avenue.