Miami Beach

Ocean Drive businesses sue Miami Beach to stop public vote on cutting back alcohol sales

Should alcohol sales on Ocean Drive stop at 2 a.m.?

Tourists and residents give their opinions about Miami Beach's new alcohol legislations on Saturday, July 23, 2017. The city is considering cutting off alcohol at Ocean Drive clubs after 2 a.m.
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Tourists and residents give their opinions about Miami Beach's new alcohol legislations on Saturday, July 23, 2017. The city is considering cutting off alcohol at Ocean Drive clubs after 2 a.m.

A group of Ocean Drive businesses is suing the city of Miami Beach to try to quash an upcoming referendum asking voters if alcohol sales in the street’s late-night clubs should be cut off at 2 a.m. instead of 5 a.m.

Mango’s Tropical Cafe, Ocean’s Ten and others maintain that the city violated its own charter when it agreed to send a binding ballot question to the voters because changing hours of alcohol sales by referendum would bypass the city’s land use boards, according to the suit.

The suit also claims that the ballot language is invalid because it doesn’t explicitly state whether the vote is binding.

Miami Beach City Attorney Raul Aguila told the Miami Herald that the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Filed Friday, the lawsuit is the latest in a prolonged tussle between City Hall and business interests on Ocean Drive over the state of the street lined with Art Deco buildings. Mayor Philip Levine has for more than a year pushed to curb alcohol sales on Ocean Drive. He blames late-night drinking for creating an atmosphere that welcomes crime and misbehavior on Ocean Drive.

In June, the City Commission agreed to let voters decide whether alcohol sales should be cut off in outdoor venues at 2 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. on Ocean Drive between Fifth and 15th streets. Indoor establishments that are completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels would be exempt.

It’s unclear whether the lawsuit could derail the Nov. 7 vote. The deadline for Miami Beach to submit the ballot language is Sept. 13.

Bar and restaurant owners disagree, saying the city should invest in more police and continue to work with the businesses on a 10-point plan hammered out by the Ocean Drive Business Association and Commissioner Ricky Arriola — some of which is already in motion.

But since the plan was adopted, the relationship between owners and the city has only grown more acrimonious. In July, the commissioners approved a temporary crackdown on noise by lifting an exemption to the city’s noise ordinance for the next four months. The change makes well-known clubs like Mango’s and the Clevelander more susceptible to noise complaints.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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