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Miami Beach’s proposed 2 a.m. last call and Carl Hiaasen’s ‘Squeeze Me’

A group of hospitality workers gathered outside Miami Beach City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, to protest the proposed 2 a.m. rollback of alcohol service across the city as part of a Nov. 2 referendum.
Pedro Portal
Miami Herald
A group of hospitality workers gathered outside Miami Beach City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, to protest the proposed 2 a.m. rollback of alcohol service across the city as part of a Nov. 2 referendum.

A panel discussion of Miami Beach hospitality workers and leaders about the city’s proposed 2 a.m. last call on alcohol sales. Also, a conversation with this month’s Sundial Book Club author Carl Hiaasen about his novel, “Squeeze Me.”

On this Monday, October 18, edition of Sundial: 

Miami Beach 2 a.m. last call

For decades, Miami Beach has been known for its extravagant nightlife scene. There are tons of bars and clubs where tourists and locals can choose to spend their night until the sun comes up.

But, for the last few years, Mayor Dan Gelber, city commissioners, and residents have criticized entertainment venues for selling alcohol until 5 a.m., saying that it contributes to more crime and noise. Residents will vote on a referendum Nov. 2 to rollback the last call for alcohol sales to 2 a.m.

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Mayor Gelber wants tourists to visit places like Miami Beach’s museums and other attractions rather than the typical spring break party scene that often fills the streets of South Beach.

Three Miami Beach hospitality workers joined Sundial to discuss the impact on what this new rule could mean for their livelihoods and the city’s economy. They agreed that Miami Beach’s culture and location has always involved attracting tourists who want to party and have a good time.

Alex Ruiz, the owner of Salsa Mia at Mango’s Tropical Cafe, said setting the closing time for 2 a.m. is not a necessary change to make.

“We don’t have to change our identity or our culture,” Ruiz said. “All we can do is improve it. Miami has everything to offer, not just nightlife, but if we want to keep our nightlife going, we just need more safety.”

He also mentioned that the same visitors who come to Miami Beach to enjoy the clubs at night are the same visitors who go to museums, galleries, and spas during the day.

Dr. Hank Fishkind is an economist, and he recently released a study projecting the negative impact of this proposal. The study was paid for by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. He explained the snowball effect of the city losing a substantial amount of money.

"What's important is not just the loss of the sales, it’s the loss of the customers," said Fishkind. “Not only are they lost to the clubs, they’re lost to the hotels and restaurants. It has a magnified impact."

Miami Beach hospitality workers panel discussion

Carl Hiaasen’s “Squeeze Me”

The story begins at a wealthy gala in Palm Beach when Katherine Sparling Pew "“Kiki Pew" Fitzsimmons goes missing. Meanwhile, someone calls a wildlife expert to the gala to deal with a massive python.

The python has a large bulge in its belly, and that’s how the book “Squeeze Me” by Carl Hiaasen begins. This satirical novel is the Sundial Book Club’s October title.

Hiaasen is a New York Times bestselling author, and he was a longtime, celebrated columnist for the Miami Herald. He started writing this novel months after his brother died, and dedicated it to him.

“It just felt like too much to try to deal with and try to focus the way you have to,” said Hiaasen. “He would’ve been highly pissed off to think that I just quit, and that helped me get this book done."

He mentioned that the book is a timely piece. There’s a presidential character who some readers say resembles former President Donald Trump.

"I was trying to get the book done not knowing whether or not [Trump] would be reelected, and at the same time the pandemic hit,” Hiaasen said.

Hiaasen is now working on his seventh children’s novel.

Carl Hiaasen's "Squeeze Me"

Amber Amortegui is a senior studying journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Born and raised in Davie, Fla., Amber is a native South Floridian who embraces one of America’s most diverse regions.