Discussion to Discuss Tabled Again.
At Wednesday’s Miami Beach City Commission meeting, the commission was to vote on ,whether to allow a discussion to be opened to allow liquor sales on Miami Beach beaches. But, as the meeting got underway the referendum was again tabled until a later date.
What exactly is this referendum all about? Well, we know, it does not mean that the commission is deciding whther to allow the general public to set up a stand and start slinging booze on the beach. Or it doen’t mean that Spring Breakers can hit the beach with blenders filled with coladas and drink through the night. What it means is that a discussion would be underway to formulate rules and regs to allow hotels to offer bar service legitimately to their paying guests. Currently, liquor of any kind is not allowed to be served or consumed on any public beaches, but the city is not enforcing these laws while the commission decides on whether to even discuss it.
This whole serving liquor saga first started in May of 2010, when Miami Beach commissioner Jerry Libbin proposed adding a law that would limit beach alcohol consumption to certain designated areas. “I’m not looking to take away anyone’s party. We are a tourism community, and we want to be responsive and responsible,” said Libbin at the time to the SunPost.
The beach has always had a no open container policy, but enforcing it has always been difficult. “I think this is something that should be part of the concession rights, and we will negotiate something that is fair and adequate,” said Libbin.
At the same time, the city attorney’s office began investigating beach liquor sales following hundreds of complaints from residents of littering, loud parties and heavy drinking during spring break. The city’s drinking laws ban consumption and sales of alcohol in public places.
City Attorney Jose Smith reviewed the city’s rules, and found that selling of booze on the beach is illegal, despite the fact that most hotels on Miami Beach regularly serve their customers on the beach. Oceanfront hotels were now not allowed to sell drinks on the beach.
This set off a heated debate between the hotels and the city. So heated was the debate that the commissioners ended up deferring the decision temporarily. A year and a half later, we are still tabling the same issue, should liquor be served on the beach.
There is a lot to consider on both sides of this debate. First is tourism. Beachside drink service is expected when hotel visitors head to the beach for sun and relaxation. As Alex Tachmes, an attorney who represents many Beach hotels told the Miami Herald, “It’s something that tourists expect to be able to do, when they’re staying a hotel paying $500 a night” .
On the other side is the cost to the environment and the cleanliness of the beaches when liquor is allowed. The sand is covered in empty bottles and debris after events, not to mention, the noise level from revelers who party on the beach after dark disturbs beach residents.
So where does the city go from here? Do we have a turf war between residents and hotels. Not so, says Libben. This ruling is only to discuss how to work out the details to allow hotels or licensed vendors to sell and serve liquor. What is not up for debate is to allow beachgoers to consume any form of alcohol on the beach at anytime. If people are going to drink on public beaches they would only be allowed to buy them from specified vendors like beachside hotels. Also, any alcohol would only be allowed in designated areas. No coolers, no portable cups or flasks. No blenders and no open containers. Period.
Libbin added that the proposed regs would place certain responsibilities on hotels, “You can’t serve too much alcohol, you have to keep the place clean, you’ll be legally liable.”
David Kelsey, president of the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant Association had this to add “Hotels have had drink service on the beach forever, and it’s never been an issue. The servers themselves monitor and see who the drink goes to. So there would not be trashing of the beach from bottles and glasses left around.”