The vogue of prohibition era culture has finally reached Miami Beach City Hall.
Instead of beefing up its police force by hiring more off-duty cops during Spring Break, Mayor Dan Gelber has gotten a majority of Commissioners to buy in to a prohibition on alcohol sales in some Miami Beach districts while rejecting the will of the voters.
On February 26, Commissioners will get a chance to vote on again a time-specific cutoff in and around the city’s popular entertainment district for 12 days in March. Gelber wanted the cutoff to go from 5 am to 2 am. Commissioners voted on Feb. 12 preliminarily to make it 3 a.m.
The areas that would be affected by the cutoff could include parts of Washington and Collins Avenue, as well as Ocean Drive.
But get this – residents rejected a 2 a.m. ban on alcohol sales on Ocean Drive in 2017. All in all, an overwhelming majority – 64 percent – of Miami Beach residents voted against the rollback.
So what is Mayor Dan Gelber doing? Dancing while Miami Beach burns?
Thank god commissioners on Feb. 12 had the wherewithal to defer, hopefully permanently, the idea of giving City Manager Jimmy Morales more emergency powers including shutting down all sidewalk operations in and around the entertainment district. What’s next – a curfew for all adults on Miami Beach?
And, the rules might change again when commissioners vote on what they already approved. Or, maybe the cutoff will be 1 a.m. when it is all said and done.
But are the City’s leaders putting their money where their mouth is? Will they compensate businesses in the entertainment district for the millions of dollars bars and restaurants will lose if Miami Beach politicos enact this draconian measure?
Ask any business in the entertainment district, and they will tell you that Spring Break is their Christmas. It’s when the money from sales of food and alcohol help to address the gap during the doldrums. But few on the dais – except Ricky Arriola and Michael Gongora – who voted against the 3 a.m. prohibition, have provided a voice for the business people whose blood, swear and tears have helped grow Miami’s reputation as a welcoming destination for millions of tourists.
Dancing around the economic issues, Dancing Dan Gelber hasn’t said word one about providing businesses with help when in reality what it is doing it the equivalent of downzoning in real estate. When City leaders take a property owner’s rights away, decreasing their height or the number of units that can be built on their property arbitrarily, citizens can file lawsuits to be compensated for the loss. Is this now going to turn into a legal boondoggle with dueling lawyers eating up taxpayer dollars?
And what about the millions of dollars in tourism campaigns that have been launched to draw more and more people to Miami Beach. Are we saying that political wisdom, that has made Miami Beach an international draw since Frank Sinatra was strolling the Fontainebleau Boardwalk with his entourage, was foolhardy and misguided? To answer that question – obviously not.
What about where visitors might go instead of Ocean Drive for a lane night drink? Are those smaller restaurants and bars equipped to handle an increase in foot traffic that normally is served along several blocks of Miami Beach? The answer, quite simply, is no.
On the other hand, Miami Beach has taken some good steps to address Spring Break concerns without strangling business. Starting at the end of this month, businesses between Fifth and 15th Streets on Ocean Drive that serve alcohol past might hire Miami Beach cops when customer foot traffic is highest. Off duty cops don’t come cheap, but it ain’t prohibition.
C’mon Dancing Dan, get behind the businesses that employ hundreds of hard working people who fight everyday to feed and clothes their kids and put food on their dining room tables.
Stop Dancing and respond to the business community. Don’t be like President Woodrow Wilson and enact a failed policy that will drive money and tourists away.