Miami Beach is late with study on impact of alcohol ban referendum

Miami Beach is late with study on impact of alcohol ban referendum
  • Sumo

Voters in Miami Beach could change the character of the city’s most famous and celebrated street with a ban on outdoor alcohol sales after 2 a.m. if a referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot is passed.

But they have no information from the city about the impact of such a measure — which would change the last call only at outdoor bars and only on Ocean Drive from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. — because a promised economic study has not materialized. A “preliminary report” is expected at Wednesday’s commission meeting with a final study due a week before the election is over. And after thousands of people have voted via absentee ballots and early voting.

Opponents, however, already have a counter study that says the ban would hurt the city financially, cost jobs and lower property values.

Championed to the point of obsession by Mayor Philip Levine — and one has to wonder why he is so hell bent on making this happen so fast (did someone shoot him down at The Clevelader once?) — the measure, which is promoted as a tool for public safety in response to a shooting over a parking space on Memorial Day weekend.

But when commissioners voted unanimously in June to put this question on the ballot, they were basically promised an economic study on the impact by Sept. 1. And guess what? That didn’t happen.

There is no data to show the ban — which seems directly targeted at only three businesses in a 15-block strip — will curb violence. The city’s own statistics show that 911 calls for police and fire rescue in the Ocean Drive area peak between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Those calls drop by about a third between 2 and 5 a.m.

The Memorial Day weekend shooting that set this vote in motion happened at 10:35 p.m., by the way. Also, there have since been shootings on Lincoln Road, Collins Avenue and Española Way, where the mayor owns property.

So a 2 to 5 a.m. ban on just Ocean Drive seems selective and may have zero or at most a very minimal effect on crime.

What’s worse is that, if passed, the measure could actually hurt the city financially, according to a study commissioned by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, which represents businesses along Ocean Drive.

The 27-page report from Fishkind and Associates said that the three-hour change won’t help reduce crime but will have a “dramatic, negative impact on the economy of Miami Beach and significant consequences for the city’s budget.”  It also puts the economy of Ocean Drive, where other businesses thrive off the popularity of the people-watching outdoor bars, “at risk to serious economic harm” not just to the three bars that would be affected, but to nearby restaurants and hotels that were surveyed and said the nightlife and hours on Ocean Drive are critical to the choice their guests make to stay here.

The city presented some faulty figures of their own — apparently pulled from thin air and presented in haste before any real, professional study could be done — that only look at Ocean Drive alcohol sales between 2 and 5 a.m. and not what the ban would do to other businesses or the perimeter zones.

“This ordinance will severely alter a formula that has proven successful and allowed hotels and restaurants to flourish,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the FRLA. “If this destructive measure passes, jobs will be lost and taxpayers in the City of Miami Beach will be responsible for footing the bill for the millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.”

The numbers? More than $340 million a year in lost sales (bars + restaurants + hotels). Close to a $2 billion drop in property values. An estimated $20 million hit to the annual sales tax revenue. And 5,500 jobs lost.

City officials don’t have any real numbers to counter because it’s economic study just got started two weeks ago. Even though Levine told commissioners in June that he would get the study done by Sept. 1 so voters could be educated, the contract with Florida International University’s Office of Research and Economic Development wasn’t signed until almost a month after that on Sept. 29. And it gives the school 60 days to complete it.

It won’t take that long, said Amy Mehu, the city’s redevelopment specialist. “They are being expedient in data collection,” Mehu told Ladra Tuesday, adding that the city had trouble finding a firm to do the study. “Many firms stated conflicts of interests because they had done work for the hotel industry or businesses on Ocean Drive.”

Commissioners will get a preliminary report at Wednesday’s meeting and a final report will be available Oct. 31, Mehu said.

That means there’s a whole week for voters to get information before Election Day.

Well, again, except for the thousands of voters who will have already cast their ballots by mail — absentee ballots were mailed out Monday — and in early voting, which begins next week.

“Talk about putting the cart before the horse,” said Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

She, too, is concerned with a rise in violent crime and the environment on Ocean Drive on a typical Friday night. But she says that the way to deal with that is with more police presence and community policing.

“This is not logical. If this was about logic, we would have commissioned a study before the vote,” Rosen Gonzalez said, adding that she will be voting no and telling her friends and supporters to do the same.

13 Responses to "Miami Beach is late with study on impact of alcohol ban referendum"

  1. Kent Harrison Robbins   October 17, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    I have had business interests on Washington Avenue for over thirty years. The deterioration in the quality of life in the Entertainment district, esp Ocean and Collins, have deteriorated rapidly in the last three years. It has a sleazy carnival like atmosphere with slovenly dressed, boisterous, street walkers, overwhelming the sidewalks making it unpleasant to be in the area. It’s disgusting but not criminal for the most part. I would advise anyone not to allow any child under 18 to be present without their parents. My staff, a multi- cultural group, felt uncomfortable walking to their cars. More police is not the solution. A change in zoning, earlier closing hours for bars, restricting music from blaring in the street, reducing loitering by taking business inside, removing outdoor tables by 10pm would all help solve this offensive problem.

    • Oh Mercy, Mercy, Kent!   October 18, 2017 at 8:18 am

      What happens, Kent, if the alcohol roll-back is adopted, but that fails to make a dent in the problems you just rattled off? How much earlier do you want those clubs to close? Will sundown please you? High noon?

      How much earlier should those outdoor tables be removed? Would you settle for a 7 p.m. last call on dessert? How about removing them just as soon as the last lunch is served? Why stop there? How about right after breakfast?

      As for those “slovenly dressed, boisterous street walkers”… might you be suggesting the creation of some roving band of Taliban-like “religious police” (or in this case, “style police”), charged with the mission of ticketing any pedestrian deemed “slovenly dressed” and exhibiting excessive “boisterous”-ness with whom uppity snobs might take offense?

      I mean no offense, Kent, if you, yourself, happen to be one of those uppity snobs, but next time you get the vapors from witnessing those slovenly types, you might want to reach for some smelling salts.

  2. Adam   October 18, 2017 at 1:07 am

    Miami Beach is a world-class city were tourists come from everywhere to enjoy the late nightlife -to make this ridiculous change in alcoholic hours is to cut off both our own arm and reputation as a fun entertainment capital of America

    • Right On, Adam!   October 18, 2017 at 8:22 am

      Exactly my sentiments.

  3. Pamela   October 18, 2017 at 1:32 am

    Sounds like something rotten in Levine’s plan. Worth looking into before casting your vote.😡

    • There's A LOT of Rotten with Levine. Smell It?   October 18, 2017 at 8:51 am

      On the day he took office 4 years ago, Levine told WLRN’s Elaine Chen:

      “This government is going to be all about transparency.”

      A fine load of crap that turned out to be! Now, 4 years later, with days left to his term, he’s heading out the door leaving voters with one of the LEAST transparent mechanisms with which to make a wise vote on this issue: a city-sponsored report that ISN’T complete and ISN’T out yet and won’t be until after a good number of citizens have already early voted.

  4. Good Riddance, Phil!   October 18, 2017 at 7:58 am

    What if he who paid the piper and called the tune gets a different tune than he paid for?

    What if the FIU report comes back with not quite the results the city had hoped it would be getting for the wasted taxpayer dollars the City Hall blunderheads paid to commission it? I wouldn’t trust a report hastily or sloppily slapped together on such a slipshod schedule. Would you?

    And why ever would one even give such a rushed report any credence whatsoever if it treats the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and tax receipts — not to mention thousands of jobs — as an issue that doesn’t require at least a deliberative, carefully and painstakingly thought-out report?

    Levine, your term as mayor can’t be ending soon enough for me.

  5. Jo Manning   October 18, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Kent Harrison Robbins — and many other intelligent people in Miami Beach — is/are right on. Ocean Drive is a sewer attracting the lowest of lowlife. Those of us who live here face muggings/ shootings/ stabbings/ rape/ harassment by drug dealers. There are criminals, thugs, operating out of Lummus Park. The beach is unsafe; the beach walk is unsafe, the street is unsafe. We need to get back on track and recreate our former iconic ambiance. IT.IS.UNSAFE. Get that, people? Do not listen to the bogus “studies” that are suddenly appearing claiming lost revenue to the City of Miami Beach. The City is bleeding money now with the extra costs of policing, while the clubs on Ocean Drive rake in money hand over fist and could not care less about public safety or residential quality of life. (Yeah, hundreds of residents live on Ocean Drive and can’t go out at night!) These venues need to be awakened by the passing of this ordinance. It will send a very strong message. And do, please, ask the public officials who want a No instead of a Yes vote what they are getting out of doing so.

  6. Pingback: Get the facts. Download the independent economic impact and crime studies. - CItizens for a Safe Miami Beach

  7. Jomarr Pagan   October 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

    No ban… job loss..
    Focus on controlling crime

  8. mitch novick   October 19, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Ocean Drive, Lummus Park and the Beach have become an absolute crime zone!

    I’m relieved that others are finally in agreement.

    Despite this effort, major zoning reform is necessary and should be forthcoming.

    Check out: Residents for a safe Ocean Drive on Facebook

  9. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz   October 29, 2017 at 8:47 am

    As usual Robbins Novich n.Manning take a fact – detoriation THEY HELPED CREATE WITH THEIR CREATURES AC WEINSTEIN RANDALL HILLIARD DAVID Kelsey n Mayor Dumber and IGNORE THAT WASHINGTON AVE n parts of Lincoln Rd n Collins Avenue even parts of Alton Road where there are NO BARS are WORSE. But for POLITICAL reasons they target a small area. Boy if the.Ocean.Dives hired Kent Harrison Liar would he or Novich or Manning say a peep?

  10. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz   November 11, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Now everyone knows Jo Manning Kent Harrison Liar n Mitch Novitch have NO SUPPORT in Miami Beach.


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