MIAMI (CBSMiami) – By the hundreds, protesters staged a large rally outside Miami Beach City Hall in an attempt to persuade the mayor and commissioners to rethink their 2 a.m. alcohol ban referendum.
Last June, the Miami Beach Commission unanimously approved putting the issue on the November 7th ballot for voters to decide. It asks residents if they want sales of alcohol rolled back from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. at outdoor venues between 5th and 15th streets. The change would affect mostly Mango’s, the Clevelander and Ocean’s 10.
The idea for shortened hours was brought about by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine who felt it would cut down on crime in the area and return the tranquility to Ocean Drive.
“The people of Miami Beach don’t visit Ocean Drive anymore. It’s become a dangerous spot,” said Levine before the meeting.
“It’s a lie. There are other things going on and it’s not about crime,” said David Wallack who owns Mango’s Tropical Cafe.
Levine’s critics have said his proposal was in response to a deadly 2016 shooting over the Memorial Day holiday when SoBe was packed with party goers there for the Urban Beach Weekend. Levine said his proposals are not aimed at any particular group or at specific Memorial Day weekend festivities.
“People don’t come for a Mojito. They don’t come for a Budweiser. They come for entertainment,” said Wallack.
“He doesn’t have the support that he believes that he has,” said Kristen Green who works at the Clevelander and added that the decision could mean layoffs at her job.
Those against the 2 a.m. alcohol sales ban, from businesses owners to residents to the city’s police union, say it’s a misguided effort.
“Our experience patrolling South Beach on the nightly basis tells us that other allowances, such as the decriminalization of marijuana and access to liquor stores until 5 a.m., are directly responsible for creating the anything-goes environment that we are currently experiencing. This effort to ban liquor sales on Ocean Drive is not only misguided but will prove to be ineffective and an economic blow to the city,” said Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police President Bobby Jenkins in a statement.
During the meeting, commissioners decided to put off until December discussing an FIU economic study which looked at the impact of a 2 a.m. ban on alcohol sales. Posting the discussion until after the November vote made many in the crowd jeer their decision.
Citizens for a Safe Miami Beach, which staged the rally at City Hall, say they want real solutions to the crime problems on Miami Beach. They point to multiple independent studies that show the 2 a.m. ban will not solve the crime problem and hurt the local economy.
Mayor Levine says it’s an issue that is out of his hands and is now for voters to decide.
“The question is, do you want to just cut and keep going or do you want to do something about it,” said Levine.