Alcohol sale hours big issue as Miami Beach begins early voting

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - As early voting gets underway for Miami Beach residents, one of the big issues on the ballot is how late you can drink on Ocean Drive.

Ocean Drive is the place to go for locals and tourists looking to party and enjoy the nightlife Miami Beach has to offer, but a major vote on this year’s ballot could change all that.

“We’ve heard from the residents for the last few years, and what the residents don’t like to keep hearing is the horrible crimes that they’re listening to in the news — which is not only national, international news — on Ocean Drive, between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, “so what we did is, we put it to the people.”

Voters will decide the future of the late-night party atmosphere when they answer the ballot question of whether the city should end drinking at 2 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. on the street.

If approved, all establishments along Ocean Drive — except indoor portions of bars — would have to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. It’s sparking outrage among some business owners.

During a press conference in May, business owner David Wallack clashed with Levine over the proposed regulation.

7News cameras captured Levine and Wallack’s escalating war of words. “You’re talking about businesses that created the famous label of Miami Beach. You should be talking with respect,” Wallack said.

“Do you know what you did? You inherited a business,” Levine responded as he pointed a finger at Wallack. “Go get a job. Go build a company.”

After, the news conference, Wallack spoke to 7News. “They don’t want to sit down and talk about how to solve it,” Wallack said. “They want to use an atom bomb to kill tourism.”

Owners of bars and clubs said more police would make the street safer, but they argue that limited alcohol sales will deal a serious blow to the local tourism economy.

“It is a calculated attack on that. It’s gonna hurt, not only financially, but it’s gonna hurt the brand, tourism and everything that goes around our city that makes it evolve and become what Miami Beach is,” said Mike Palma, the owner of the Clevelander and Essex House hotels.

But Miami Beach has recently seen its share of crime in the late night hours. Memorial Day weekend, in particular, caused a headache for residents. From fatal shootings to stabbings to fights in the streets, many residents say they’re fed up.

“We got three bullets coming through the front door,” said resident Morris Sunshine. “The president of my condo building had to take shelter on the floor.”

Levine has renewed his call for scaled-back alcohol hours in the name of public safety.

“To allow them to damage the Miami Beach brand, from a businessman’s point of view, that is literally — I’ll use one word — dumb,” Levine said.

While both sides make their arguments — the future of “Last Call’ on Miami Beach remains in the hands of the voters.

Election day is Nov. 7. Residents will also be voting for mayor and two commission seats.

For information on polling stations and hours, click here.

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