MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Florida’s famed South Beach is desperately seeking a new image.
With more than 1,000 arrests and nearly 100 gun seizures already during this year's spring break season, officials are thinking it may finally be time to cleanse the hip neighborhood of its law-breaking, party-all-night vibe.
The move comes after years of increasingly stringent measures — banning alcohol from beaches, canceling concerts and food festivals — have failed to stop the city from being overrun with out-of-control parties and anything-goes antics.
This weekend alone, spring breakers and pandemic-weary tourists drawn by Florida's loose virus-control rules gathered by the thousands along famed Ocean Drive, at times breaking into street fights, destroying restaurant property and causing several dangerous stampedes. The situation got so out of hand that Miami Beach Police brought in SWAT teams to disperse pepper bullets and called in law enforcement officers from at least four other agencies. Ultimately, the city decided to order an emergency 8 p.m. curfew that will likely extend well into April after the spring break season is over.
“We definitely want people to come and have fun," Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola said Monday. "It's a nightlife city. We want people of all races, genders, sexual orientation. But we can’t tolerate people thinking they can come here and act out a scene from ‘Fast and the Furious,’ speeding down the streets and shooting guns in the air.”
Some tourists are angry about the curfew, which they say has put a damper on long-sought vacations for which they paid good money. Meanwhile, some officials say they should have enacted more stringent measures sooner — as was done in New Orleans prior to Mardi Gras last month — instead of reacting in the middle of the chaos.
But Arriola and other commissioners argued the city may need an entirely different approach.
They note that over the past few seasons, the city has been steadily upping the ante with new rules and regulations, such as banning scooter rentals after 7 p.m. restricting alcohol sales after 8 p.m. and cracking down on loud music — to no avail.