Miami Beach voters are supporting a change to the city’s liquor regulations, forcing bars to now stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m., a full three hours earlier than the current 5 a.m. last call.
According to Tuesday’s unofficial results, more than 56% of residents backed moving last call to 2 a.m., while 44% opposed the change.
The debate over that last call time has persisted throughout the year. Tuesday’s referendum was a nonbinding straw ballot item meant to gauge resident support for making last call three hours earlier. But multiple members of the City Commission said they would honor the voters’ decision and approve an ordinance if voters endorsed the change.
This wasn’t the first time the city took action. In May, the Commission agreed 4-3 to immediately move the last call time to 2 a.m., subject to giving voters the final say in November.
But the Clevelander, one of South Beach’s most popular hotels, sued over that move. That resulted in a judge overturning the ordinance. Attorneys for the Clevelander argued its permit allows for a bar next to the hotel to serve alcohol until 5 a.m. and that time may not be altered by the Commission.
Any future changes would likely require talks between city officials and bar and restaurant owners to settle those disputes.
Some officials, such as Mayor Dan Gelber, argued a change is necessary to move Miami Beach away from its party-heavy reputation and make the city safer.
Polling shows residents have become concerned about crime in Miami Beach, and in South Beach in particular. Gelber and those stumping for an earlier last call argued ending alcohol sales earlier would cut down on South Beach’s rowdiness and deemphasize the bar scene.
Opponents argued there was no evidence ending alcohol sales earlier would reduce crime. They also say the change will cost the city millions in tax revenue. The city has countered with data showing police and emergency costs outweigh any tax revenue benefits and that an earlier alcohol cutoff could curb those costs.
Miami Beach residents appear ready to cut down on the party scene as a way to try to crack down on the city’s crime problem. But the group Citizens for a Safe Miami Beach, which opposed changing the last call time, criticized that logic in a Tuesday evening statement on the referendum results.
“Today’s non-binding straw poll was an attempt at misdirection by leaders who have failed to stem the growing problems of crime on Miami Beach,” the statement read. “Misinformation put forth by proponents of the 2 a.m. ban led to a result that may hurt every resident of Miami Beach. Citizens for a Safe Miami Beach will continue to oppose solutions that do nothing to solve crime, but will cost 4,100 local workers their jobs, increase property taxes, and cut tens of millions of dollars from city revenues.”