Sidewalk cafes to close as Miami Beach tells spring break "we're over"
Miami Beach has a message to spring breakers: This year's party won't be worth your time or money.
- "Expect curfews, security searches and bag checks at beach access points, early beach entrance closures, DUI checkpoints, bumper-to-bumper traffic, road closures and arrests for drug possession and violence," reads the city's new spring break landing page on its government website.
Driving the news: The city announced that sidewalk cafes on Ocean Drive would completely shut down during the second and third weekends of March — typically the busiest time of the spring break season.
- During that same two-weekend period, the city will also be increasing parking rates in the South Beach entertainment district to a $100 flat rate at city garages and lots. Rates will be $30 during all other weekends in March. (That hiked-up rate doesn't apply to residents, access card holders or "authorized employees.")
- Like every year, there will be a heavy police presence in South Beach.
Why it matters: Spring break in South Beach has been plagued by gun violence, disorder and clashes with police in recent years. Each of the last three years, the party has ended with a government curfew.
- Miami Beach's new slogan for this year's crackdown is, "We're Breaking Up With Spring Break." (Past years have featured messages like "Come on Vacation, Don't Leave on Probation" and "Take Care of Our City and It Will Take Care of You.")
- The city's heavy-handed policing — including rough arrests — has drawn criticism from civil rights groups like the NAACP.
Be smart: Officials have already tried restricting parking and enhancing policing in recent years — but they are moving forward with these efforts again.
- The key differences this year are that the city is proactively preparing visitors for another possible curfew, announcing business closures ahead of time and jacking up parking rates.
- The $100 parking fee is new, the spokesperson says. Plus, the city is doubling the nonresident towing rate in South Beach to $516.
The intrigue: While the city is teasing another curfew, there's no guarantee it will happen.
- The city manager can only legally impose one if she declares a state of emergency due to an "imminent threat to public peace or order."
- Assistant city manager Rickelle Williams told business owners in a spring break webinar this week that conditions on the ground would need to warrant the extreme measure.
- "If there is a declaration of a state of emergency, that could potentially trigger a curfew," she said. "But at this point, we do not have that situation in mind. As we go through spring break, if the conditions warrant a declaration of emergency and a curfew, then that could be implemented."
Of note: The Ocean Drive Association proposed voluntarily shutting down their outdoor service at midnight as a way to prevent a full-blown curfew, but the announced closures will be all day, a city spokesperson tells Axios.
Details: Miami Beach will also bring back lane closures, DUI checkpoints and license plate readers along the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle causeways entering the city.
The Miami Beach Police Department expects to implement the license plate readers March 8–10 and March 15–17 beginning at 6pm on eastbound lanes of the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle causeways. (There will be another license plate reader along the Fifth Street corridor on March 22–24.)
- A DUI checkpoint will be set up along the 400 block of Fifth Street on March 8–9 and March 15–16 starting at 5pm.
- Vehicular access to the South of Fifth, West Avenue and Flamingo Park neighborhoods will be limited. Parking will be restricted across South Beach during certain weekends.
- Ocean Drive will only be accessible to vehicles via 13th Street with a sole exit at Fifth Street most weekends.
- Beach entrances on Ocean Drive will close at 6pm, and access will be limited to the entries at Fifth, Tenth and Twelfth streets with security checkpoints.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to "zero tolerance" policing that is no longer on the city's website.
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