City of Miami Beach considers 'shutting the door on spring break'
Before closing the books on another problematic spring break that included two fatal shootings, Miami Beach officials are already looking to 2024 and what can be done to repeat the problems of recent years.
At a city commission meeting, Commissioner Alex Fernandez said whatever they do, the city must convey a “resoundingly clear” message to the public: “Miami Beach is shutting the door on spring break.”
“We're taking bigger, stronger actions than we have in the past to curb the lawlessness that descends upon our city during the spring break," he added.
It comes after the fourth weekend of this year's spring break when, on the back of deadly shootings the previous weekend, the city had dozens of police officers patrolling the South Beach portion of the city. They conducted DUI stops at checkpoints, and had the help of Florida Highway Patrol troopers sent by the state.
“I just want to create a scenario where no one's coming to take over our streets because there's no party, because there's nothing here."Commissioner Rosen Gonzalez
Miami Beach spent about $3 million on public events this March, like a movie screening, concerts and fitness classes, aimed at helping to control crowds. Most of the visitors sought to gather along Ocean Drive instead.
During Monday's meeting in City Hall, officials discussed the measures they wanted to take for the portion of March 2024 most likely to draw heavy crowds. They approved a curfew likely for two weekends and the week in between, and a cut-off time for alcohol sales both on and off-premise consumption.
The city manager has been asked to negotiate with the Florida Department of Transportation to close any causeways if necessary. They also approved a resolution to establish a secured perimeter around Ocean Drive and Lummus Park during a special event.
"Our community deserves to have peace and safety, so do our our businesses and our law enforcement,” Fernandez said.
Mayor Dan Gelber said he definitely supported measures like 2 a.m. alcohol bans, but reminded the city attorney that businesses have sued the city in the past over restrictions during spring break.
“Unfortunately, we've had problems in the past with some of the ideas with the court,” Gelber said. “I think the eye has to be on giving us something that you believe is our best vehicle for addressing this legally.”
An effort to ban alcohol sales after 2 a.m. last year during spring break led the Clevelander on Ocean Drive to sue the city. A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the hotel.
Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said she would have preferred to impose a curfew to last the whole month, or else the city risks putting out a weak message.
“I just want to create a scenario where no one's coming to take over our streets because there's no party, because there's nothing here,” Rosen Gonzalez said. “It's going to turn into, like, Naples for the month of March. Let's just turn into something so drastically different from Miami Beach.”
"Everything that we're talking about with curfews and rollbacks and restricting liquor sales citywide, that's too much for me to support. We might actually become Naples year round."Commissioner Ricky Arriola
Commissioner Ricky Arriola cautioned his colleagues to go lighter on their wish list, though.
"Everything that we're talking about with curfews and rollbacks and restricting liquor sales citywide, that's too much for me to support,” Arriola said. “We might actually become Naples year round. And I, for one, don't want to ever become Naples.
"Not that there’s anything wrong with Naples, but I choose to live in Miami Beach and not Naples. So, you know, I think we just need to be more cautious and more focused with our resources.”
Arriola preferred focusing those resources on the third weekend in March.
Ultimately, the majority of commissioners voted to have City Manager Alina Hudak and her staff suggest the specifics of what they should do, like the dates for the curfew, the time and the liquor sales rollback. They’ll return to the topic of spring break at their regular meeting in April and vote on the recommendations.