Miami Beach voters will get to voice their preference on a proposal to prohibit liquor sales after 2 a.m. on Ocean Drive. But the poll won’t be binding on the City Commission.
After finding little to no support from commissioners or Ocean Drive business owners, Mayor Philip Levine proposed asking voters what they want in a non-binding straw ballot. The ballot question was approved on a 4-3 vote, with commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Grieco and Micky Steinberg opposing.
Last week, Levine first pitched an ordinance that would limit liquor sales after 2 a.m. from Fifth to 15th streets on Ocean Drive, South Beach’s hottest hub for nightlife. The proposal comes after continuous complaints from residents and businesses about crime, noise and general drunken debauchery along the seaside street.
Some business owners have criticized the measure for taking the wrong approach, saying more police and stricter enforcement of the city’s existing open-container laws would improve the situation.
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Similarly, commissioners balked at even initial approval of Levine’s proposal. The measure was postponed.
Then this week, Levine suggested the city use a straw ballot during November’s presidential election to gauge interest in moving last call to 2 a.m. It’s now 5 a.m. After a protracted debate about the merits of using straw ballots to guide the commission’s policy decisions — “governing by referendum,” as Grieco put it — the item still passed.
“Straw ballots are not supposed to be about pushing agendas,” Grieco said. “Straw ballots are supposed to be about a question of great citywide importance that affects everybody equally, and everybody is equally informed,” he said.
Levine insisted on the non-binding referendum, saying there’s even a possibility a compromise ordinance could get passed before November
“I believe we need a straw ballot,” he said. “You’re not going to convince me otherwise.”