Bars and restaurants on Ocean Drive say they are willing to stop serving alcohol much earlier than the current 5 a.m. last call during busy weekends — as long as the rollback is applied citywide and retail stores are forced to stop selling booze earlier, too.
The proposal is a counteroffer to a few ideas pushed by elected officials since 30-year-old Ladarian Phillips was shot dead Sunday night at Second Street and Ocean Drive. The killing happened during an argument over a parking space. After chasing the suspect’s vehicle, Miami Beach police killed the driver of the vehicle during a confrontation and arrested the accused killer.
Following the killings, elected officials came out with calls to take action. Mayor Philip Levine revived a proposal to ban alcohol sales on Ocean Drive after 2 a.m. instead of the current cutoff of 5 a.m.
On Thursday, the Ocean Drive Association told the Miami Herald that it wants to allay concerns from the city and residents who see Ocean Drive as the source of bad behavior. Mike Palma, executive vice president of hospitality for the company that owns the Clevelander and a member of the business association, said bars and cafes on the seaside would back an ordinance that would cut into the businesses’ bottom lines for a few weekends of the year, including Memorial Day and Spring Break, if all businesses in city limits were included.
Ocean Drive has got to stop being the scapegoat for every criminal incident in South Beach.
Alexander Tachmes, attorney for the Ocean Drive Association
Palma said it would only be fair if the new procedures were applied citywide and if package liquor sales were also cut off earlier. The businesses view this proposal as less drastic than a 2 a.m. cutoff year-round. The association has not committed to which time alcohol would stop being served, but it wants to negotiate with the city to roll back last call by several hours, possibly to midnight or 10 p.m., on two or three weekends a year.
Palma said a 2 a.m. cutoff for Ocean Drive unfairly singles out one group of businesses, which would see revenue severely slashed with fewer hours of alcohol sales. The lost revenue, Palma argues, would curtail the progress made to revamp the image of Ocean Drive through a 10-point plan hashed out by the association and unanimously endorsed by the City Commission last year and in the works now.
Alexander Tachmes, an attorney representing the Ocean Drive Association and key figure in the development of the 10-point plan, said the owners fear a 2 a.m. ban would send an overwhelmingly negative message out to potential tourists who want to enjoy the Beach’s nightlife.
“We’re super worried about the global nightlife brand of Ocean Drive,” he said.
Palma echoed Tachmes at a press conference Thursday afternoon where business leaders spoke about their proposal.
“People associate that Ocean Drive is South Beach, South Beach is fun. When you start messing with that 2 a.m., you send the message out that this is over and this is changing, you risk people not coming to hotels, not spending their money and going elsewhere,” Palma said.
Pieces of the Ocean Drive plan are already in place or in motion. Most of the sidewalk cafe tables have been reconfigured to open a linear pathway for pedestrians. New standards have been approved for the cafe umbrellas to improve aesthetics.
New lighting fixtures have been installed on side streets and in alleys. A new ordinance to limit the volume of music emanating from bars and restaurants is also in the works. In addition, businesses have put together $500,000 to pay for increased security along Ocean Drive. Since April, additional security officers with direct lines to the police have spread out between Fifth and 15th streets.
Palma noted that several of the reforms have come at a significant cost to owners.
“How are we going to fund this stuff if [Levine’s] going to take away our revenue streams,” Palma said.
Not all businesses on Ocean Drive are on board with the association’s suggestions.
If the regulations pass, Miami Beach will be duping its tourists, who come to Miami Beach expecting a party destination, said Samantha Salgado, who works at the V Live venue on Ocean Drive and has worked as a tourism industry lobbyist.
“Rolling back alcohol sales or consumption is not fair to the businesses, it’s not fair to the residents, it’s not fair to the tourists or the people who come here to enjoy our beaches,” Salgado said.
Ultimately, the shootings over the weekend weren’t about alcohol or noise, so limiting sales is not the answer, Salgado said.
People will still find their alcohol.
Samantha Salgado, of the V Live venue on Ocean Drive
Miami Beach needs to make a “case study on how to deal with black people on the Beach, understand our culture,” she said. “Because closing at 2 a.m. doesn’t mean anything. People will still find their alcohol.”
The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and a handful of hotels not located on Ocean Drive did not respond to requests for comments on this story.
The Ocean Drive plan, brokered with the help of Commissioner Ricky Arriola, served as a compromise in 2016, the last time that Levine pushed for the 2 a.m. cutoff. The mayor did not get support from fellow commissioners for that ordinance.
Levine wants to send the question of an earlier cutoff time to the planning board. He has placed the referral on the agenda for Wednesday’s City Commission meeting.
On Monday morning, Commissioner Michael Grieco called for an end to Urban Beach Week following the announcement that two people were dead following the shootings. Since it is not a city-sanctioned event that involves issuing any kind of permits, but a series of events organized by a particular club or business, it’s unclear what kind of influence the city can have on Urban Beach Week events apart from communicating with individual promoters.
Grieco added to Wednesday’s agenda an ordinance that broadens the scope of weekends with limited alcohol sales. He’s proposing to apply the scaled-back hours to the weekends of Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and the nearest weekend to the Fourth of July.
Wednesday’s commission meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. at 1700 Convention Center Dr. on the third floor.