City of Miami Enforces 3 A.M. Last Call in Wynwood

If you've gone out to Gramps, Electric Pickle, Bardot, or any other bars in Wynwood lately, you might have noticed the night ending earlier than usual. Well, you have Section 4-3 of the City of Miami Code of Ordinances to thank.

This law states that "no vendor of alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises shall serve, offer to sell, or allow to be consumed or deliver any alcoholic beverages to any person except during weekdays, including Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. the following day and Sunday from noon to 3 a.m. the following day."

Bars in Wynwood are among the businesses that fall under Section 4-3. So basically, if you order gin and juice from the Pickle's bartender at 2:45 a.m., you have 15 minutes to drink up or toss it.

In the past, though, patrons had been able to stay at the bar till the wee hours, finishing every last drop of their drink. But now, according to bar owners in the area, the law is being strictly enforced, many times without notice.

"We've been in business for four years, and [the police] have been totally aware that we've been open until 5 a.m.," Tomas Hussain Ceddia, owner of the Electric Pickle, tells New Times. "The police came in the middle of a busy night and closed us down and told us that we needed to stop serving [alcohol] at 3 a.m. ... with no notice ahead of time.

"They said they were going to start enforcing [the ordinance]," Ceddia says. "I've been in Miami for 15 years and never heard of this law. When we opened our business, we were open until 5 a.m."

Gramps, which opened its doors this past December, has also been affected by Section 4-3. "The city suddenly started enforcing it within the last couple of weeks," owner Adam Gersten says. "The idea that we have to take away people's drinks at 2:50 a.m. sucks."

Also a lawyer, Gersten says the portion of the ordinance that has everyone confused is the phrase "allowed to be consumed."

But if Wynwood bars want to continue doing business, the only choice is to obey the law.

"We're doing what we were told to do," Ceddia says.

And Gersten also intends to abide by Section 4-3. "It's not worth losing your license."

Yet compliance doesn't mean inaction. The Gramps owner has a proposal up his sleeve that he intends to present to the city. His plan would expand drinking hours to 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, during special events, and nights before holidays.

"It's a great balance. It's just about having that option to not turn away your customers."

However, Maj. Jorge Gomez of the Miami Police Department's Patrol Central District says Wynwood bars that remain open past 3 a.m. are breaking the law.

"Their license specifically states there cannot be selling or consumption [past 3 a.m.]," Gomez explains. "You can't have a 24-hour liquor license in Wynwood."

In response to claims that the City of Miami has increased enforcement of the ordinance, Gomez tells New Times that it's only a matter of time before these bars get caught, mainly because of complaints.

"You can be doing it for an X amount of time, but that doesn't mean you will get grandfathered in," he points out. "When the complaints come in... you get caught and you say you used to [close past 3 a.m.], but it doesn't work like that."

Gomez says he does not have immediate access to the source of complaints but sums up the situation, saying, "There's more complaints because there's more bars."

Celso Ahumada, Neighborhood Enhancement Team administrator of the Allapattah and Wynwood area for the City of Miami, believes the enforcement is for security reasons.

"To me, I go by logic," he says. "Police are seeing the incredible amount of people who are visiting the area. I think that is the main reason. I think it's a safety reason."

Although Ahumada says he isn't fully aware of previous Section 4-3 enforcement policy, he supports a reform. "I wish everybody would get together and study the area very well and see how it's going. It could be that some of the area could be open to 5 [a.m.]. Why not? But [bar owners] have to prove [they] could do it."

 
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