‘It’s become a tinder’: Miami Beach declares state of emergency for entertainment district due to spring breakers

Miami Beach has declared a state of emergency in its entertainment district due to an influx of spring breakers who have inundated the city. A curfew will be in effect at 8 p.m. for 72 hours, starting Saturday, Miami Beach Interim City Manager Raul Aguila announced Saturday.

All restaurants, bars and businesses are required to be closed by 8 p.m.

“As we hit the peak – at the peak of spring break, we are quite simply overwhelmed in the entertainment district,” Aguila said at a press conference Saturday. “Folks, this is not an easy decision to make, we are doing that to protect the public health and safety.”

The decision, Aguila said, is necessary to protect residents and spring breakers alike. 

“The problem is there’s a few things happening simultaneously, there’s a confluence of challenging circumstances,”  Mayor Dan Gelber told USA TODAY. “We’ve got too many people and too many looking to act out while there’s a pandemic going on. So we’ve got all this happening simultaneously, so it’s become a tinder.”

“I stay up at night and worry [as to] when I’m going to be getting a phone call about some event that’s happening,” Gelber continued. “We see the videos, the photos of throngs of people, sometimes something happening that creates unrest… or worse and there’s just no reason to endure that.”

The city has been in a state of emergency for a year due to COVID-19, Gelber said, noting that the “emergency powers” employed by Aguila to enact the state of emergency are in addition to the COVID-19-related state of emergency in Miami Beach.

There is simply too much disorder for the Miami Beach Police Department to handle, Gelber said.

As part of the state of emergency, the following directives have been implemented, according to a release from the city:

  • Curfew is imposed in the “High Impact Zone” of Miami Beach, which includes the area “bounded by” 5 Street, 16 Street, Pennsylvania Avenue and Ocean Drive.
  • Eastbound lanes on Julia Tuttle Causeway will be closed to traffic 9 p.m. through 6 a.m.
  • Eastbound lanes on the Venetian Causeway will be closed to traffic 9 p.m. through 6 a.m. except to residents.
  • Eastbound lanes on MacArthur Causeway will be closed to traffic 9 p.m. through 6 a.m. except to residents, hotel guests and employees of city businesses.
  • Ocean Drive will be closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic except to residents, hotel guests and employees of local businesses at 8 p.m.
  • Other roads within the “High Impact Zone” may be closed at the discretion of city officials.
  • Sidewalk café operations including expanded outdoor seating are suspended in the “High Impact Zone” as of 7 p.m. Saturday. 
  • Restaurants in the “High Impact Zone” can stay open until midnight for delivery only.

Some local businesses have already taken steps of their own to address the stress of so many visitors to the area that have been causing disturbances. 

The Clevelander South Beach, a Miami institution on Ocean Drive, opted to halt its food and beverage services, closing the doors to its on-site restaurants temporarily amid spring break chaos until Wednesday at least after witnessing spring break-related situations getting out of control, including damage done to a neighboring restaurant.

“We do not want to wait for something more terrible to happen,” Gelber said at the press conference. 

Spring break chaos due to ‘anything goes’ mentality

Because most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Florida, people are coming with an “anything goes” mentality, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told USA TODAY on Monday.

The Miami Beach Police Department made 163 arrests over seven days, spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told USA TODAY on Monday.

Monday, the Miami Herald reported, a man was fatally shot near a residential area tied to a South Beach shooting.

“It’s like a triple threat: We’ve got too many people, too many coming with a desire to go wild and we have the virus,” Gelber said. “It really poses a multifaceted peril for us.”

The city has also implemented “zero tolerance for all of our ordinances,” Gelber said, which means Miami Beach Police are making arrests for having open containers and more.

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