The late-night party on South Beach’s Ocean Drive will continue to rage until 5 a.m. after voters rejected rolling back hours of alcohol sales to 2 a.m.
Once votes were tallied Tuesday night, residents also approved the rezoning of a cluster of North Beach to allow mixed-used development envisioned in a neighborhood-approved master plan.
On Ocean Drive, people will still be able to drink until 5 a.m. at popular nightclubs such as Mango’s Tropical Cafe and the Clevelander — two high-profile establishments that lobbied hard to defeat the referendum. It lost by a margin of almost two to one.
The alcohol question sparked a spirited debate in the tourist destination city. Nightlife interests argued the rollback would severely damage the Beach’s nightlife brand and take a significant bite out of City Hall’s resort tax revenue. Mayor Philip Levine and some South Beach residents disagreed, saying the street’s party atmosphere fuels crime and disruptive debauchery. They argued that stopping the flow of booze at 2 a.m. would not hurt the city’s tax revenue all that much.
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“Tonight, the residents have spoken, and while the measure didn’t pass, they were given an opportunity to be active in the decision-making process,” Levine said in a statement. “I thank my colleagues for giving the voters an opportunity to weigh in as I believe the work to keep Ocean Drive safe continues as the new commission takes office.”
There were competing economic studies, stacks of campaign mailers, commercials and even an airplane flying a “vote no” banner sponsored by the Clevelander. Two commissioners, John Elizabeth Alemán and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, endorsed the “no” vote.
“We are incredibly grateful to the city of Miami Beach that they showed compassion to the people who make Ocean Drive great,” said Ceci Velasco, executive director of the Ocean Drive Association, after voters also chose a new mayor and two new commissioners. “We’re very excited to move forward with this new mayor and commission to work on comprehensive plans with real solutions so we can elevate this city to where it needs to be.”
Some South Beach residents who pushed for the rollback believed it would spur a sea change for Ocean Drive’s rowdy atmosphere. They consider the street a haven for bad behavior fueled by booze and would rather see a calmer, quieter Ocean Drive lined with upscale dinner spots and a family-friendly ambiance.
In the end, the party will continue into the wee hours.
Mitch Novick, owner of the Sherbrooke Hotel and a supporter of the rollback, said he wasn’t surprised by the result and still hopes to see changes in the area with the new commission.
“I think the entire neighborhood needs a closing time rollback to 2 a.m.,” Novick said. “I’m quite confident that bad things are going to keep happening in the entertainment district.”
North Beach redevelopment question
Up in North Beach, residents approved a rezoning plan to increase the maximum square footage allowed for redevelopment of a main street for the area. A 10-block district surrounding 71st Street called Town Center now will be rezoned.
Voters approved increasing these properties’ floor area ratio, the formula that determines the overall size of a building.
A master plan developed by Dover, Kohl & Partners with guidance from the community called for the upzoning to spur redevelopment of Town Center with mixed-use buildings that have retail and restaurants on the first floor and housing above.
A campaign for the “yes” vote was backed by an unlikely alliance between the development community and local preservationists. Those who support the local designation of architecturally historic buildings in North Beach came out in support of the upzoning because it upholds a compromise reached in the master plan: Increase development rights in Town Center and restrict development rights in new historic districts to preserve low-slung Miami Modern apartment buildings just a few blocks away from Town Center.
“I’m elated because it’s something that everybody can take ownership of. It shows what we can achieve when we all work together,” said North Beach activist Carolina Jones.
Miami Beach Ballot Questions
24 of 24 Precincts
*Changing alcoholic beverage sales/consumption termination time on Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Streets
Yes: 4,164 votes, 35.29%
No: 7,635 votes, 64.71%
*Floor area ratio Increase For TC-1, TC-2 and TC-3 to 3.5 FAR
Yes: 6,607 votes, 58.62%
No: 4,663 votes, 41.38%