Miami Beach

Blaming alcohol for some of its crime, Miami Beach may put restrictions on liquor stores

Miami Beach will consider a measure that would keep liquor stores from opening within 1,500 feet of each other.
Miami Beach will consider a measure that would keep liquor stores from opening within 1,500 feet of each other. Bloomberg

Looking to reduce crime and drunkenness, Miami Beach might create a new restriction that would prevent new liquor stores from opening within 1,500 feet of each other, effectively limiting the number of stores that can open in some of the city’s busiest commercial corridors.

The proposed ordinance, which will be up for a preliminary vote at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, does not create an exception for existing businesses. But the city’s planning department and one of the ordinance’s sponsors on the City Commission told the Miami Herald more language will be added to protect stores that are currently operating

“The idea is not to put businesses that have been there for years out of business,” said Commissioner Joy Malakoff.

The change, proponents argue, would prevent liquor stores from opening up on each block. The city’s police department, commissioners and businesses have long blamed alcohol for making South Beach’s entertainment district difficult to patrol, dangerous and not family-friendly.

Currently, package liquor stores have to be at least 300 feet away from each other. City planners have not counted how many stores would fall into this category, where they would be considered a “legal non-conforming” use. But on some Beach streets that attract the most locals and tourists, there are several clusters of stores that would appear to be too close to each other under the new rule, according to maps plotting the city’s licensed package liquor stores.

Some stores on Washington and Collins avenues, for example, that are less than 1,500 feet away from each other would be allowed to continue operating as is. If the ordinance passed as it is currently written, no variances would be granted on this regulation.

The Beach commission has discussed how to limit alcohol sales several times — an approach that often stands at odds with a popular image of Miami Beach as party central for tourists.

Last year, commissioners voted to prohibit alcohol sales at retail stores before 10 a.m. in an effort to prevent the homeless from getting drunk in the early morning. Mayor Philip Levine wanted to move last call from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Ocean Drive, a measure that did not move forward last year. Another Levine proposal to ban alcohol sales after 2 a.m. at sidewalk cafes did pass in 2015.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech