The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday told Ocean Drive clubs to turn down the volume.
Ocean Drive nightclubs will for the next four months be more susceptible to noise complaints after commissioners unanimously voted to temporarily repeal an exemption of the city’s noise ordinance.
The ordinance could force well-known Ocean Drive businesses like the Clevelander, Mango’s Tropical Cafe and Ocean’s Ten to turn down the music if people make noise complaints. Normally, the exemption would allow the businesses to blast music without restrictions on how far the sound carries east into Lummus Park and the sand past that.
The discussion marked another turn in the ever-lively debate about the Art Deco-lined street that some residents and elected officials feel needs to be safer and more upscale. This debate has raged for more than a year and will continue as voters decide whether to cut off alcohol sales at 2 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. during a referendum in November.
Mayor Philip Levine, a frequent critic of Ocean Drive’s atmosphere who links alcohol consumption and noise to criminality, pushed the issue Wednesday.
“If you reduce the amount of noise that’s out there, you reduce the amount of chaos and craziness that we see and experience on Ocean Drive late at night,” he said.
Ocean Drive businesses disagreed, and they successfully lobbied the city to remove a provision that would allow code enforcement officers to proactively enforce the law and for anonymous complaints to trigger citations — all for noise streaming from an entertainment district into a park and beach that have no permanent residents.
“Frankly, if no one is being bothered, then why should businesses be cited?” said Alexander Tachmes, the attorney who represents the Ocean Drive Association. “The only way to really ensure that they’re really addressing a problem is if a resident says, ‘I’m being bothered by the noise.’ ”
Commissioner Michael Grieco called the move a “fake hustle” that he believes will bring on an enforcement blitz that will give the appearance of improvement with no regard for impacts on businesses, including hospitality workers who rely on the wages they earn from Ocean Drive’s busy nightlife.
“I think the mayor’s going to coordinate with the chief to have the chief do what he should’ve been doing all along, which is to properly police the area and properly deploy the right amount of staff for the area,” he said, adding that there will be “dozens, if not hundreds” of employees who could potentially lose their jobs when clubs like Mango’s and the Clevelander can’t entertain people the way they need to.
Grieco also vehemently disagreed with Levine’s assessment that less noise would lead to less crime.
“To say that there’s some correlation between noise and crime is asinine,” he said.
Grieco and Levine, who have become more frequent political foes, butted heads during the public debate before the vote when Levine called Grieco “Mr. Mango” and Grieco called Levine “Governor.” Mango’s has contributed to Grieco’s mayoral campaign. Levine is seriously considering running for governor in 2018.
Last year, a coalition of businesses worked with Commissioner Ricky Arriola to develop a 10-point plan to spruce up the iconic street. Changes that have already been made include increased lighting, an opened linear path on the sidewalk created by moving cafe tables toward the buildings, and additional police officers.
Tachmes said the vote doesn’t undermine the 10-point plan, but it takes a sledgehammer to a problem that needs a scalpel. He said the point of the plan was to limit unwanted noise, such as music blasting from loudspeakers outside T-shirt shops.