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Miami Beach looks to prohibit alcohol sales past 2 a.m., but final say rests with voters

Image of people waiting outside Mango's in South Beach
Miami Herald

A rollback of the last call for alcohol to 2 a.m. is the talk of the town in Miami Beach. This November, residents of the city will have a say, once again, whether the city should roll back the last call for alcohol from 5 to 2 a.m.

In 2017, a majority of voters voted against a similar proposal.

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Opponents of the referendum organized a rally outside Miami Beach City Hall on Oct. 13. Dozens of people who work in the hospitality industry came out, many wearing white t-shirts with "vote no" to the 2 a.m. ban written on the front.

David Wallack, owner of Mango’s Tropical Cafe on Ocean Drive, used a megaphone to share his opposition to the ballot question.

Supporters of the referendum say the rollback would reduce crime. He suggested the way to reduce crime would depend on more police officers.

“The most important thing that we as businesses have been asking for over 10 years is to have more boots on the ground community policing,” Wallack said.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber says that the ban will have no effect on the business in the South Beach entertainment district.

“Frankly, the idea that these businesses can’t survive unless they’re open all night is ridiculous," Gelber told NBC 6.

Gelber and supporters of the 2 a.m. rollback suggest that if bars close earlier, crime will drop and the streets of Miami Beach will become safer.

But protesters said city commissioners who support this referendum want these businesses to close down, in order to attract potential buyers for future condominiums.

Alex Ruiz, owner of Salsa Mia, says that even if the referendum were to pass, people will still find a way to party and drink. He pointed to spring break earlier this year, when visitors partied on the streets.

"The people that are affected directly are the hard-working people," said Ruiz. "Yes, the owners are directly affected without a doubt, but you’re talking about the people that just got out of a really hard year of the pandemic."

WLRN's Veronica Zaragovia contributed to this report.