Wilting under a sweltering sun, sticky humidity and the stern collective gaze of hundreds of police officers, Urban Beach Week ended Monday not with a bang but the sharp click of a suitcase closing as tens of thousands of Memorial Day visitors headed home from Miami Beach.
Deliciously anticipated by some and apprehensively dreaded by others, the throbbing national hip-hop party never reached the raucous (and sometimes violent) levels of years past. And by Monday, the scene was fading like an old post card, especially on the uncharacteristically quiet Lincoln Road.
Standing outside Quattro Gastronomia Italiana Restaurant, manager Roberto Sanso saw something he doesn’t usually see on a holiday weekend: an empty stretch of street as far as the eye can see until the end of Lincoln Road. “Normally I can’t see the road,” he said. “On Saturday I could see the whole street.”
A deserted Quattro, which usually gets the brunch crowd, wasn’t serving a single table. Sanso, who’s been working there since 2006, said Memorial Day crowds have been dwindling for years. The tangle of complicated street closures and police checkpoints that Miami Beach officials have imposed keeps traffic down — not just cars, but customers.
“It’s very difficult for people to drive through,” he said. “People stay away from South Beach; they don’t want to get involved."
Some Lincoln Road business owners were so disappointed by the turnout that they questioned whether it had even been worth keep their places open. Business was “non-existent,” said Shelley Frievalt, manager of the Serendipity 3 restaurant, and added: “We’re not sure if we’ll stay open next year.”
If the crowds were smaller than in years past, they still managed to get into some mischief. Police reported similar numbers of arrests for drugs, public drinking and other crimes as in previous years.
Miami Beach police and assisting agencies recorded 344 arrests from Thursday evening through Monday morning, including 106 on Sunday, the liveliest day of the weekend for cops.
Last year’s total for the same period was 324 arrests.
But most of the arrests were for relatively minor offenses, and calls to Miami Beach 911 were actually lower than during recent Urban Beach Weeks, which made Miami Beach police Sgt. Bobby Hernandez view the weekend as a win. “It has been a very successful Memorial Day on the public safety side,” he said. “Our goal was to provide a safe and secure destination to our visitors and the least amount of disruption to our residents. We accomplished that this weekend."
Some would-be partiers thought the weekend was less of a Mission: Accomplished than a Mission: Buzzkill. “I understand why they are here,” said Toronto tourist Bedour Berchan, 26, “but it makes us feel like Miami is scarier than it is.”
Her friend Aida Abdu, also 26, had a different complaint. What Miami Beach really needs, she said: “Hotter guys!”
Others, however, cited two of the earmarks of a successfully hearty party: exhaustion and bankruptcy. “This weekend wore us out,” said Tim Miles, 24, of Dallas, finishing a Subway sandwich on Washington Avenue near Lincoln Road. “Wore my wallet out, too. That’s why we’re eating here.”
Miles and several college friends came to South Florida for their first Urban Beach Week. They said it didn’t disappoint.
“It was all about coming down here, kicking back, enjoying the sun, having a few drinks, maybe talking to some ladies, listening to some music -— and we did all that,” Malik Russell, 24, said. “Now I think I’m ready for a vacation.”