MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – World famous South Beach is an instantly recognizable tourist destination and party place. But the party might be over, or seriously toned down, if Mayor Phil Levine succeeds with a sobering proposal.
“We all know what’s going on Ocean Drive,” the mayor told city commissioners on Wednesday.
What the mayor says is going on in the wee hours of the morning on South Beach is a cacophony of noise, drunkenness and lawlessness that is a nuisance to residents and drain on police.
“It’s turning into a Bourbon Street. It’s turning into a terrible place that’s become a blight,” Levine said. “It’s a cancer, a cancer that spreads through the entire city.”
Levine’s proposal? Ban outdoor alcohol sales on sidewalk cafes and bars after 2 a.m.
“We believe that will lower the drunkenness, the disorder and the debauchery that happens there between 2 and 8 a.m.,” Mayor Levine told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana. “Ocean Drive needs to be cleaned up. We’re not Las Vegas. We’re not Bourbon Street.
The law now allows outdoor sales until 5 a.m. The move to turn off the tap three hours earlier has business owners staggering.
“Our business is mostly alcohol – plus food – but if we don’t have any business after 2 a.m., it’s going to be horrible,” said Aziz Fillai, manager of Paparazzi’s Restaurant and Bar.
For Primetime Miami Beach, Levine’s plan could prove fatal. Their only alcohol service is outdoors.
“It would kill us, kill the community, kill the businesses, kill the je ne sais quoi of Miami Beach,” said Primetime Manager Brian Washington. “We can’t allow that. It’s silly.”
At Amarillo, host Osiris Dominguez sees his fair share of drunk people. But he says moving up last call will only make the problem worse.
“You’re always going to have your situations, always. But if you keep it longer, people have a chance to sober up. You don’t have the crowd all leaving at the same time at 2 o’clock all coming out at the same time, drunk,” Dominguez said. “I think it’s going to ruin business because a lot of people come here for that. They come here for the fun, the excitement, staying out late.”
Collin McCandree, visiting from Chicago, called the idea of cutting off booze sales at 2 a.m., a party pooper of a proposal.
“It’s quite upsetting, actually,” said the businessman on vacation. “That’s the whole point of coming down here.”
Beach police support shutting down outside drinking at two.
Chief Dan Oates told commissioners that nearly a quarter of serious crime on South Beach is committed between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m.
Detractors say the answer is better police protection, not threatening the livelihoods of businesses that bring billions of dollars to South Florida and pay huge amounts of property tax.
Felicia Oates, no relation to the police chief, waited tables Thursday and worried about losing tips – if not her job.
“It effects our money tremendously,” the waitress said. “We get a lot of our money from the sales of alcohol, and if that goes away so will our employees.”
The notion of limiting alcohol sales is just that at the moment, there’s not even an ordinance drafted as yet.
The months ahead promise the political equivalent of a barroom brawl.
While some think banning booze outside after 2 a.m. would be a major party foul, the mayor insists the plan won’t be a total buzzkill.
“It’s a great party place,” Levine said. “We need to maintain it as a party place. But we need to make it as safe place where people have fun and have a wonderful experience.”