A timeline of Ocean Drive reforms in Miami Beach
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Last month, Miami Beach commissioners voted on a measure to lower the music volume and reset the last call from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. in the city’s busy South Beach entertainment district.
The Clevelander, one of the city’s iconic institutions, has put up a resistance. Attorneys for the hotel filed a lawsuit against the city to continue selling alcohol and getting permission to play music above ambient levels between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Last week, a judge sided with the hotel and ruled that the city wrongly enacted the measure.
In the lawsuit, Clevelander’s attorneys argued that the city had “declared war on South Beach’s famous entertainment district.”
But the last call at 2 a.m. is just the last in a string of attempted raids on the party crowds, alcohol, and noise. Here is a brief timeline from Miami Beach’s “war” on Ocean Drive.
Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine
Photo by Stian Roenning
April 2015: During a meeting of the city commission, then-Mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, proposed banning alcohol sales in sidewalk cafes after 2 a.m. Levine pretty much called Ocean Drive a gross, drunken mess.
“It is becoming a terrible place that has become a plague, a cancer that is spreading across our city,” said the mayor.
May 2015: Miami Beach commissioners voted to ban all outdoor alcohol sales after 2 a.m. Several restaurant owners took the step, arguing that selling alcohol early in the morning was not the problem. However, Levine defended the commission’s decision, hinting that there was more to be done.
“We don’t think a 2am ban is key to cleaning up Ocean Drive,” Levine said at the time. “We believe it is a small step to bring Ocean Drive back to its iconic nature, where locals really love to go and families love to go.”
July 2016: Levine proposes an ordinance to limit alcohol sales after 2 a.m. on Ocean Drive between Fifth Street and 15th Street. Miami Beach commissioners eventually postponed the ordinance and discussed other possible solutions.
Ocean Drive during Urban Beach Week
Photo by George Martinez
June 2017: After a violent Memorial Day weekend, Miami Beach commissioners unanimously agreed to let voters decide whether to restrict alcohol sales in the city.
November 2017: A referendum appeared on the ballot paper asking voters if the city should issue an ordinance to reset the last call from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. However, voters wanted the party to go on. The referendum failed.
April 2019: Miami Beach didn’t make it with the Spring Breaks 2019. The city dispatched officers in riot gear to patrol the beach and kept paddy wagons ready to arrest illegal revelers. So fed up were the mayor and commissioners that they proposed a series of ordinances to crack down on promoters, bars serving alcohol to minors and runaway pavement cafes.
The Miami Beach police are on duty during the spring break.
May 2019: Miami Beach officials attempted to make the city even “less pleasant” for future Spring Breakers 2020 by increasing the police presence, closing bars and cafes at midnight, and turning off the music on Ocean Drive.
April 2021: After a wild spring break that made headlines across the country amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Dan Gelber again proposed an alcohol ban in the entertainment district at 2 a.m.
May 2021: City commissioners answered the above last call at 2 a.m. Clevelanders attorney Alexander Tachmes immediately promised to take the fight to court.
“We’re definitely suing,” Tachmes told the Miami Herald. “What they did … is illegal, and it’s really bad policy too.”
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Alexi C. Cardona is a writer for Miami New Times. Hialeah from Hialeah, she is happy to be home after four years working for the Naples Daily News writing about Miami’s weirdos.