Voters approve earlier closings for South Beach bars

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Florida voters approved a referendum on Tuesday that would make bars in South Beach close three hours earlier, signaling that residents have had enough of the entertainment district’s raucous late-night crowds and night-time violence.

A majority of voters in Miami Beach voted “yes” on a measure to end alcohol sales in the area at 2 a.m., rather than the current 5 a.m. closing time, according to The Associated Press.

Frustration with South Beach has been on the rise for years, but tensions spiked when a major thoroughfare in the area, Ocean Drive, was closed to cars during the pandemic and restaurants were able to set up more outdoor seating along the road, the AP reported.

Matters intensified further during spring break, when the city’s enforcement of an 8 p.m. curfew led to more than 1,000 arrests.

Commissioners in Miami agreed to temporarily limit the sale of alcohol in the early hours of the morning in South Beach last summer. Now, lawmakers will be tasked with translating the referendum into permanent legislation, according to the AP.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber (D), who supported the referendum and claimed victory in his own reelection campaign Tuesday evening, said he expects the commissioners to support 2 a.m. bar closures now that the votes are in, according to the AP.

He did note, however, that he will consider making exceptions for larger hotels with security staff. Those venues may be permitted to continue enforcing a 5 a.m. last call.

Gelber detailed a vision of South Beach’s entertainment district as a place where residents and visitors could “live, work, play” without fear of the crime and disorder that he attributed to an “all-night party” climate, according to the Miami Herald.

“This is what our residents want,” he said of the vote, the Herald reported.

Opponents of the measure, however, are arguing that the earlier closing time will cut into the city’s revenue without reducing crime, the AP reported.

The approved referendum came after voters rejected a similar measure in 2017, which called for stopping the sale of alcohol on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach after 2 a.m., according to the AP.

Tags bar closures COVID-19 Dan Gelber Miami Beach South Beach

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