Happy Hour


Last week, the Miami Beach City Commission approved the sale of alcohol in movie theaters. The measure came at the proposal of Mayor Philip Levine.

Movie theaters in Commercial High Intensity Districts, with certain minimum size requirements – 1,500 square feet and maintaining at least 300 permanent seats – will now be permitted to sell alcohol in separate areas, as long as they put in place mechanisms to stave off underage potential customers.

On its surface, the new ordinance seems to affect the movie theater on Lincoln Road and perhaps one other site, which was one of the concerns brought forth by Commissioner Ed Tobin.

“This came to the City at the request of the Regal Cinema on Lincoln Road,” Tobin told SunPost. “I was concerned we might be creating a loophole that would allow the Roosevelt Theater on 41st Street to reopen as a nightclub. Miami Beach has seen several theaters

converted to nightclubs. Presently, the Roosevelt is too close to schools and places of worship to be licensed as a nightclub without many public hearings first. It is way too close to quiet residential neighborhoods. The new ordinance allows large movie theaters like the Roosevelt alcohol sales as a matter of right. Matter of right means no public hearings. Staff assured us that the Roosevelt’s proximity to schools and places of worship would restrict alcohol sales regardless of the new ordinance. Commissioner Steinberg spotted the issue immediately. The commission wanted to make sure the new ordinance didn’t create a loophole for the Roosevelt.”

Tobin said the ordinance turned out sufficient.

“No substantial tweaks were needed,” he said. “We may tweak the ordinance a bit for added neighborhood protections.”

Miami Beach already has in place regulations that prevent drinking establishments from operating within close proximity to schools and houses of worship.

“Planning staff assured us this does not create any loopholes,” Tobin added.

Tobin said he does not think the ordinance will necessarily have any negative impact on the city. However, he also doesn’t think it will provide any significant economic advantage to Miami Beach.

“I’m not sure this will have an impact on many local businesses,” he said. “Regal Cinema and their customers will benefit.”

Mayor Levine did not respond to emails requesting explanation for the measure, its merit and purpose.

Residents and patrons of Regal Cinema South Beach have mixed opinions.

“The way that Miami Beach is, the only time my children ever get to see it is when we go to the movies at the [Regal Cinema], because it’s a safe, family-friendly environment,” said Patricia Menores. “We live [the Upper East Side], but my kids include a 14 and a 12 year-old and they hear about South Beach and want to see it. They’ve seen Ocean Drive and they love the parks in South Pointe and on North Beach, but there aren’t many other places to take them. Most of the other parts of the Beach – South Beach primarily – are really for adults, with bars and clubs… not for kids. That’s fine, but a lot of places aren’t safe, as well. The theater was always one place we could go.”

Menores wondered if there was some sort of limit on individuals’ alcohol purchases or if the theater would become “virtually a bar.”

On face, the official paperwork appears unclear on the topic or doesn’t address it.

Resident Sylvia Diaz said she thought there might have been a different way to address the issue. “I would think the best time for alcohol sales are when there are special event like movie festival programs, premieres, special events…,” she said. “I thought there was a [legal mechanism] for allowing that kind of thing without turning a movie theater into a bar. I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

Perhaps ironically, when the theater on Lincoln Road opened more than a decade ago, one of the chief arguments against it was that it would be a corporate, commercial entity in a high-profile location such as at the Alton Road intersection. Today, “Starbucks” is the most common name on what was once considered local residents’ ‘main street.’

Of course, others feel otherwise.

“I love the idea of being able to have a beer or two before seeing a movie, not having to walk too far afterward and it being OK,” said Tom Rickets, resident. “I’d rather have bottle service while in a movie, but that might be a way off.”

Several other residents and patrons echoed the same sentiment.


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