June 2, 2023


Just Do Travel

Miami Beach’s curfew enhanced public safety, but at a cost


Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.

Heightened police presence will continue in Miami Beach this weekend, but as Spring Break winds down, the city is stepping away from the midnight curfew it imposed last weekend.

That’s a solid decision by City Manager Alina Hudak and Mayor Dan Gelber. Keeping a fair and balanced response to this conundrum of an event for the city is imperative.

It is a tricky balance to maintain for the city, ultimately responsible for visitors’ safety, but also mindful that Spring Break is a financial bounty for local businesses bouncing back from a pandemic. Curfews put a crimp on their revenue.

The curfew was implemented on March 23, after two shootings on streets crowded with Spring Breakers alarmed city leaders. Five people were wounded. It’s a miracle that there were no casualties.

Commissioners approved the emergency four-night crackdown on the crowds on Ocean Drive.

“I think that the curfew was a success in that we had no other incidents and made zero arrests for curfew violations. People, including businesses, complied,” Gelber told the Editorial Board.

Vacations ruined

The midnight curfew worked to control crowds, but the city’s image took a hit, and businesses reported financial losses.

Unfortunately, Miami Beach’s brand — fabulous, fun-filled, all-night party town — got dinged, too.

Visitors interviewed on national television complained that their highly anticipated Spring Break vacations had been ruined.

“We couldn’t even get a slice of pizza!” one irritated tourist said. That’s hard to swallow for our tourism community. After all, the city’s DNA is that of a vacation mecca. And Miami Beach hotels are enjoying a high occupancy nightly rate of about $380.

Dan Binkiewicz, owner of Sweet Liberty bar, says the city never reached out to business owners about the curfew, which he felt at the cash register.

“I lost 70% of my weekly revenue due to the four-night curfew,” Binkiewicz told the Editorial Board. “The city should realize we’re all in this together and include us in finding a solution and not treat us as the enemy.”

Binkiewicz is a member of the new Miami Beach Hospitality & Tourism Coalition, spearheaded by former Miami Congressman Joe Garcia and created to strengthen the voices of smaller clubs, bars and restaurants in Miami Beach.

Gelber says the curfew was necessary. “I am never truly comfortable calling a curfew; it should be a last resort, given its impact on businesses and our brand.”

And the brand did take a hit. South Beach was a ghost town for four nights. It was strange to see Ocean Drive empty at the height of Spring Break and the Ultra Music Festival in Miami. Where did everyone go? Wynwood was one alternate popular destination.

And, as it has been for years, the elephant in the room for the Spring Break controversy is the fact that a significant number of party-goers are young African Americans. Claims of racism are co-mingled with attempts to control the crowds.

If the party-goers were white, would the city take such measures to call a state of emergency? That question always hangs over any discussion, and rightly so.

A local community activist told the Miami Herald that the “only emergency” in Miami Beach was that Black Spring Breakers were there.” Perhaps, but if gunfire and gun confiscations were factors — despite the mostly law-abiding nature of Spring Breakers — we hope a law-enforcement crackdown would be part of the equation if the revelers were white.

It never ends

On Wednesday, members of the county’s Community Relations Board met to discuss how, once again, to address the Miami Beach vs. Black revelers issue. This conversation is held every year, but the hand-wringing and resentment never, ever seem to be resolved.

This time, smaller club owners are stepping up and organizing in their fight against Gelber’s plan to phase out Spring Break and evolve the entertainment district into a more-sedate arts and culture corridor. At the forefront are clubs such as Mango’s Tropical Cafe and the Clevelander. They have taken the city to court, successfully, to fight its attempts to end the sale of liquor past 2 a.m. But they failed in their attempt to cancel the curfew.

“The curfew is not a viable solution. People were upset. Money, I believe millions of dollars, were lost last weekend because of the curfew,” Garcia told the Board.

Club owners say Gelber, and the city, has unfairly identified them as the source of all evil in the city’s Spring Break problems. “The problems are happening in the streets outside the clubs, not inside the clubs,” Garcia said.

Gelber says he gets that businesses that rely on a late-night crowd lost money.

“I just don’t think we had a choice,” Gelber said. We agree.

As another Spring Break year comes to a close, the city is reeling from the impact the partying has on its daily budget, its police department and its face to the world.

Last weekend’s curfew was the right solution to an immediate problem. But this annual impasse between the city and business owners is getting mighty tiresome.


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This story was originally published March 31, 2022 6:00 AM.