On Miami Beach ballot: No to 2 a.m. stop to liquor sales; Yes to North Beach development plan

Miami Herald Editorial Board

The outdoor bar at the Clevelander Hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach is one of three targeted by a ballot question to end liquor sales three hours earlier.
The outdoor bar at the Clevelander Hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach is one of three targeted by a ballot question to end liquor sales three hours earlier.

Two items on the Miami Beach ballot seek to improve residents’ quality of life at each end of the city. The first one is a misguided effort to stem rowdiness and crime in South Beach. The second could represent a hard-won victory for the residents of North Beach.

Alcohol sales

A long-standing controversial issue — how late should some bars along Ocean Drive be allowed to serve liquor — is being kicked to the voters.

They are being asked to decide the future of Ocean Drive’s late-night party atmosphere by considering whether the city should require certain bars to stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m. instead of the current 5 a.m.

If the measure is approved, all establishments on Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th streets, except indoor portions of bars that are completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels, are affected. Truth be told, however, the referendum is largely aimed at ending the partying at three bars/nightclub/hotels on the storied street: Mangos, the Clevelander, and Wet Willie’s.

At the core is the chagrin of nearby residents who have to endure the hooting, hollering, and crime of rowdy tourists and partygoers. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is on their side. He has gotten an earful of complaints and has had a contentious public exchanges with owners of the establishments.

The Editorial Board agrees with the mayor that the prickly issue should have been handled by the City Commission, but Levine says he’s been unable to get a consensus there, largely because of the hefty campaign contributions the bar owners make to commissioners. Scaled-back alcohol hours in the name of public safety “is just the right thing to do,” Levine told the Editorial Board.

The business owners who would be affected say the move is heavy-handed and will hurt business and employees.

“This is not punitive. … The three locations we are focusing on are the malignant tumors, and we want to eradicate the cancer,” the mayor said. Strong words.

We agree that something must be done for residents held hostage by partyers. However, this legally shaky, narrowly targeted question isn’t the right course. In addition, though drinking, rowdiness and public safety are concerns, the initiative fails to address that carousers can amble over to Collins Avenue — or go to an indoor bar — to keep their party going.

On the question of a 2 a.m. end to alcohol sales on Ocean Drive, the Herald recommends NO.

North Beach

After years of contention over the best way to turn South Beach’s neglected stepsister of North Beach into a more-vibrant economic force, this referendum has preservationists, developers and, for the most part, residents on the same page. We commend these once-warring factions for coming up with a responsible, more-comprehensive redevelopment plan to create a “town center” where now there are underused, dated buildings, vacant land, and a few commercial enterprises, including a few restaurants and banks. The words “sleepy” and “tired” get used a lot.

The referendum asks if a 10-block district on either side of the main corridor of 71st Street should be “upzoned;” that is, increase floor-area ratio —FAR — which would allow for larger mixed-use buildings to draw more foot traffic, residents, and visitors.

The beauty of this proposal is that it is predicated on creating local historic districts that will protect the area’s wealth of Miami Modern apartment buildings. This is key to maintaining the unique character of the low-rise residential areas, and helped bring preservationists on board. “It’s really a lesson in working together, preservationist and former commissioner Nancy Liebman told the Editorial Board. “If we just continue to argue about preservation and height and development, we will go nowhere.” Voters should get on board, too.

On the question to increase the FAR to create a Town Center in North Beach, the Herald recommends YES.