Mayor Looking at Further Measures to Tame the Party Atmosphere

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Mayor Looking at Further Measures to Tame the Party Atmosphere:

“Big Drinks” on Ocean Drive and booze-filled boat parties next on his list

Following a package of ordinances he sponsored to tame the rowdy atmosphere around high impact periods such as Spring Break and Memorial Day Weekend, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is now turning his attention to general operating practices in the Entertainment District. Working with the City Attorney’s Office, he’s looking at ways the City can impose stricter requirements for permitting of sidewalk cafés citing the “36-ounce drinks”, hawking, and misleading menus.
At the City Commission FY2020 Budget Retreat, Gelber said he’s also very concerned that the party is shifting to the water, specifically around Monument Island, a manmade island serving as a memorial to Henry Flagler. The island, which is part of the City of Miami Beach’s park system, sits in Biscayne Bay between the Venetian and MacArthur Causeways (photo above).
Gelber said he is “trying to get a slow speed area around Monument Island.”
“I’m really worried about what’s on the water right now,” he said, citing “parties with lots of booze.”  
“What’s happening around Monument Island… it’s nuts, jet skis, alcohol being consumed.”
At least two operators are hosting boat parties for Memorial Day Weekend, in addition to the private boats that will gather at Monument Island. Turn Up Entertainment is advertising a “Booze Cruise Package” that starts with 2 for 1 drink specials pre-boat launch. “Once aboard the Party Boat, get ready for 3 hours of non stop Partying!,” the event listing says. The itinerary includes snorkeling, swimming, and tubing though rides on jet skis are “STAFF PROVIDED.”  
The Señor Frogs Miami Boat Party + Open Bar & Party-bus also includes a 3-hr open bar, “Jet-ski and banana boat” rides though no indication of who will operate the jet skis.

Regarding the sidewalk cafés, Gelber called the activity at some of them “a race to the bottom.” He wants to “get rid of the big drinks… hawking… big menus.” He said he’s looking at a number of things that could be tied to the permit process saying “those tables are our right to give.” 
Bottom line, his goal is “raising the floor of the conduct. I think we might have to play a role so everybody’s on the same level and that level is what we expect.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian who led a charge for more transparent menus and listing of prices said “Despite our efforts, we’ve moved the needle a little bit, it’s still happening.”
Gelber said he wants to “tether [the rules] to these cafe tables. It’s not a right. If you want them, this is how it’s going to be and if they don’t want to do it, they don’t get a café table.”
The message, he said, “This is your floor everybody and everybody who goes below it is going to get repercussions. That’s the only way to do this.”
“We’ve got to get it done as fast as possible,” he said. “I want to do everything we can legally do, push it as hard as we can.” Noting the tables “are the most profitable thing on Ocean Drive,” Gelber said, “If you take away a permit for a day or a week, it hurts a lot.”
City Attorney Raul Aguila said the idea is to “put compliance issues into the permit.”
“We’re expecting that it will be adversarial… but so what?” Aguila said. “With the things the City is doing for [the businesses on Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road], they need to step up to the plate and concede to some of the things.”
“We’re not in their shoes, so we have to be respectful,” Gelber said. “On the other hand, I don’t know that we have other options. Everybody’s going to be on the same playing field, everybody has the same floor.”
He acknowledged the Ocean Drive Association was starting to address the issues. “I hope they continue on that,” he said. “Nobody has said ‘We love these huge drinks, they’re really important to Ocean Drive.’ Some of them are not going to like it, but I don’t think we have an option anymore.”
“Everybody likes clarity,” Gelber said. “We have clarity. We can’t continue as we are.”

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