Ocean Drive last call

Ocean Drive

Here’s what you’ll see on your ballot:

City law currently allows the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on private property at alcoholic beverage establishments located on Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Streets from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 a.m. the following day. Shall an Ordinance be adopted changing this current 5:00 a.m. termination time to 2:00 a.m., exempting from this time change those indoor portions of alcoholic beverage establishments that are completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels?

The outcome of this referendum will essentially decide the identity of Ocean Drive, Miami Beach’s most (in)famous late-night party spot, especially for tourists.

Last call on Ocean Drive is 5 a.m. right now. If the city votes yes on this, that will be moved up to 2 a.m. at streetside bars and clubs (it will stay 5 a.m. for any indoor spots that are “completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels”).

The Miami Herald sums up the debate:

Locals want peace, quiet and a more relaxed, upscale ambience. Older South Beach lifers want to turn back the clock to a brief period following the Art Deco area’s resurgence when Ocean Drive was known for upscale restaurants and attracting the well-heeled.

But tourists come for the party, the music, the drink and — for some — the drugs. The tides of time have washed over the street to make it a home for tourists craving nightlife — a younger, racially diverse crowd with a taste for partying into the wee hours, twerking on the street and looking for sex.

Debate on this started Memorial Day Weekend, with a shooting that left one man dead ( it happened several blocks from Ocean Drive). Many in the city say that the prevalence of alcohol fuels crime, even though studies say crime has actually gone down the last few years.

Ocean Drive businesses warn of a huge economic impact from rolling the hours back and are calling for more in-between measures, like more police on the street. They say many locals will lose jobs at Ocean Drive establishments if the hours are cut.

Ocean Drive is over-the-top – but that’s what the tourists come for, and tourism is a huge boon to the Miami Beach economy. A study commissioned by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association – one of a couple commissioned, but the one considered most reputable by the Herald – predicts a loss of $11 million in resort taxes to the city. They say Ocean Drive’s rollback will affect nearby restaurants and hotels, not just those on the strip.

There’s also the question of whether this should be decided by voters, or by commissioners with the input of experts like local law enforcement.

While this referendum is only about Ocean Drive, if the city votes yes, it might be the first step to curtailing over-the-top nightlife in other parts of the Beach.