Aug 8, 2023 - Business

Miami Beach alcohol restrictions bottled up

Hospitality workers protest against the 2021 alcohol-sales referendum.

Hospitality workers protest against the 2021 alcohol sales referendum. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

It's been nearly two years since voters approved a referendum supporting a 2am cutoff for selling alcohol in Miami Beach — but attempts to pass local laws restricting alcohol sales have mostly fizzled out.

Why it matters: South Beach's world-famous nightlife scene drives tourism, but city leaders have been divided on containing large crowds that congregate in the streets during events like spring break.

Catch up fast: In 2021, 57% of voters approved a nonbinding referendum in support of rolling back the city's 5am alcohol cutoff to 2am, with some exceptions.

The latest: The city passed its first major piece of alcohol-related legislation in March, a 2am rollback in the South of Fifth neighborhood that led to the closure of Story nightclub.

  • Mayor Dan Gelber, who has spearheaded efforts to enact a 2am last call for years, failed to get commission support last month for a proposal to ban alcohol sales citywide for about 10 days during spring break.
  • Gelber plans to bring it back for a vote in September, he tells Axios.

What they're saying: Gelber says residents should be frustrated that some commissioners are ignoring how they voted.

  • "I always hear about listening to residents," he says. "It's been really amazing how much we've ignored them on this issue."

The other side: Critics of alcohol restrictions say there is no correlation between disorderly conduct in the streets and late-night bars because many visitors get their liquor from package stores.

  • "It has not been proven to me even anecdotally that it makes an ounce of difference," Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who voted against Gelber's proposal, said during last month's meeting.

Bottom line: Gelber, who is term-limited and leaving office in November, says the nightlife industry has a "grip" on City Hall and passing a citywide rollback seems unlikely during his final months in office.

  • "I'm hoping, but I'm not going to hold my breath."

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