After nixing nighttime programming in January, Commissioners agreed to provide $500,000 for daytime activation of the most difficult area of the beach from 7th to 10th Streets.
When an initial presentation earlier this month that included beach cleanups, yoga, kickball and DJs fell flat, Chief of Staff to the City Manager Marcia Monserrat said, “We reached out to DJ Irie who graciously agreed to help us curate the month of programming.”
Irie, who said he has curated Spring Break programming in areas like Mexico and the Bahamas for 15 years, said, “Obviously, I’m very familiar with what’s been going on in this city. Also, I’m very familiar with Spring Break, in general, as it’s a big part of my business.”
“The challenge is that what we want to accomplish and the resources to accomplish it, it’s not very easy. It’s a tall order,” he told Commissioners. “I thought the best way forward was to reach out to some partners in the nightlife industry, mainly operators, wonderful partners like Rockwell Miami and other clubs that already have a lot of programming coming in and to work together to leverage off of their programming. Their programming is a big reason why all the kids are coming to town.”
“We want to put together something that’s going to be compelling, something that the kids are going to be engaged with so they’ll enjoy themselves, of course in a very safe, controlled environment,” Irie said. “The things I’ve put together, I think, really hit that mark. And it’s kind of a miracle to get to that point but, thankfully, with the partnership of Rockwell and other nightclubs, I think we’re going to be able to pull it off.”
All of the activities will take place within a controlled area that is 1,300 ft long and 200 ft wide from 7th to 10th Streets.
Monserrat said a typical day on the programmed weekends will start with a beach cleanup, followed by two “high energy” fitness classes. There will be a basketball court on the sand in addition to a volleyball court.
On stage, DJs will start playing music at lower levels building up throughout the day to a 30-minute headline act at 5 pm. At 5:30, they will “start to tone things back down,” Monserrat said. At 6 pm, all food and beverage sales will end with the music stopping at 6:30 so the crowd will begin to exit on its own.
Mayor Dan Gelber who acknowledged the unhappiness with the first proposal said this one “feels like it hit the sweet spot.”
Last year’s emergency actions to put police in protective gear on the beach to contain the chaos made for “horrible images and very difficult policing," Gelber said.
In addition to Miami Beach Police, there will be 20 security guards stationed at 16 emergency exits, two main exits, and one main entrance. MBPD will patrol the water line with ATVs.
“It’s a little out of the box,” Gelber acknowledged but, he said, “Anything is better than last year.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian raised concerns about serving alcohol in the area. “I do support the concept of providing people who want to have a good experience a place to do so and the program’s creative.” But given the emphasis on alcohol and reducing the service hours in bars, he said, “We’re doing a lot to limit alcohol, then for the City to be providing alcohol, I’m concerned about the message that that is sending.”
Monserrat answered, “This provides a controlled environment.” People coming in will be checked, bags will be checked, and no outside alcohol will be allowed into the venue, she said. There will be wristbands with different colors for every day for individuals over 21 and those under 21, and the number of drinks per person will be limited. “I think what we get is as close to a controlled environment as possible,” she said.
Miami Beach Police Chief Rick Clements said, “We know that drinking is going to occur and I would much prefer to control it and monitor it, if you will, in regards to the venue that’s being provided as opposed to allowing it to occur without any type of oversight or any type of control efforts at all. I think this is putting our best foot forward,” he said noting it provides “some good clean fun” while helping to “make sure that things don’t get out of hand with overconsumption of alcohol and I think that the wristband issue at least gives us a chance to be able to do that.”
Emphasizing the venue would sell alcohol, not give it away, Gelber joked, “I’m usually the first person to oppose anything fun on the Commission” but after talking with Clements he said, rather than the “treacherous scenarios” of the past, “This allows us to control it in a way that, I think, at least gives us the possibility to turn the corner and do something different and do something better and address the problem head on”
Newly elected Commissioner Steven Meiner who is experiencing his first Spring Break as an elected official said, “I understand the concern. I see both sides but I think, realistically, we’re going to have a better chance of bringing people in if we’re actually selling alcohol.”
Clements noted some schemes by Spring Breakers to hide alcohol the night before by burying it in the sand and flagging it for the next day. “It’s scary to watch from a distance” when officers go into the crowd to retrieve bottles and the crowds “engulf the officers from all sides.” The concern then becomes, “If something bad happens, how do we get them out of there?" he said. "So this is a better alternative to what we had done last year. It’s a safer alternative to what we did last year. And really at the end of the day that’s what I’m going to argue for is the safety of the event and how safely we can get people in and out of it and make sure that it goes off without a hitch. The other way is rolling the dice.”
Commissioner Ricky Arriola who has been highly critical of proposals to date that he considered “half-baked” said he was “very impressed with the plan” which takes into account security, logistics, crowd containment, entertainment and fitness activations so that “we’re not just promoting a party atmosphere,” sanitation and portable bathroom facilities, and food and water to prevent dehydration.
“This is a comprehensive plan,” he said. “For the amount of money we’ve appropriated, I think it’s good.” The City will learn from the process and repeat what works well and expand on it, he said. On the other hand, if it “gets out hand, the music, booze, size, we can shut it down.”
Arriola said he had “no concerns about the alcohol because we’ve taken the necessary steps to control underage drinking and make sure people don’t consume more than they should."
Centerplate, the concessionaire at the Miami Beach Convention Center will manage the food and beverage. Monserrat pointed out that Centerplate also does the food and beverage for Hard Rock Stadium. Given their experience with college football games, she said, “They are familiar with this crowd and the price points they’re looking for.”
In response to a question about how the programming money is being allocated, City Spokeswoman Melissa Berthier provided the following breakdown:
- $185k towards private security for the event site
- $122k towards staging, fencing, porta johns, storage pods and other large equipment
- $27k for fitness instructors and entertainers (i.e. DJs)
- $147k production fee, which includes event staff and the execution of the programming for 14 days
- $20k contingency fee
For those of you adding at home, the total comes to $501,000 due to rounding, Berthier said.