Miami Beach

Liquor store limit gets initial nod while restriction on morning alcohol sales will soon end

The Miami Beach City Commission tentatively approved an ordinance that would limit the location of new liquor stores.
The Miami Beach City Commission tentatively approved an ordinance that would limit the location of new liquor stores. AP

Miami Beach commissioners gave initial approval Wednesday to a new requirement that liquor stores be at least 1,500 feet apart from each other and said more details will be hashed out before the final vote in April.

But while cracking down in one area, the commission said it will ease up in another. A previously approved restriction on buying alcohol in retail stores before 10 a.m. will also likely be rolled back in April, allowing people to make purchases starting two hours earlier.

Six commissioners who were present voted unanimously to increase the required minimum distance separation between package liquor stores from 300 feet to 1,500, with much of the discussion focused on how the new regulation would affect a neighborhood that is on the verge of being redeveloped in the northern part of the city. Mayor Philip Levine was absent.

The measure’s purpose is to prevent new liquor stores from popping up within a block of each other. City leaders believe the restriction would limit drunkenness and crime. Current operators would not be affected. They would be grandfathered in, so no one would be put out of business, should the change pass on a final vote.

The new rule would also effectively limit the number of liquor stores.

Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán said she’d like to see exceptions made for upscale establishments that might be the kind of redevelopment the city wants to encourage in North Beach.

“It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you had a gorgeous vodka specialty tasting shop where you can buy some,” she said. “I think we should find a way to let those things evolve.”

Others said the new regulation is necessary to give the city better discretion to control the types of businesses that could open in busy commercial districts.

“This is giving us an opportunity to allow a tenant mix that we would like to see take root and replace what’s [in North Beach] now,” said Commissioner Ricky Arriola.

The commission will consider the item again in April.

Elected officials also rolled back a previous restriction on buying alcohol in retail stores. In the fall, the commission voted to restrict morning sales until 10 a.m. in order to prevent some homeless people from getting drunk so early in the morning.

The measure was temporary, meant to last until May so the commission could examine its impact. But residents and retailers complained, prompting Wednesday’s conversation. What was originally proposed as a compromise — splitting the difference and allowing alcohol sales at 9 a.m. — ended with a vote to just push it back to the original hour, 8 a.m., effective after the second vote in April.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech