As the Party Moves West, Will a 2 a.m. Last Call Solve South Beach's Problems?

What's wrong, bro? You can't hang?
What's wrong, bro? You can't hang?
Photo by George Martinez

This week, when folks learned that some western parts of South Beach were considering moving last call from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., the response in the comment section was often something along the lines of: Bro, if you can't handle the craziness of South Beach, you should get the [insert curse word] out of South Beach.

Why move to Vegas if you're antigambling? Why live in New York if you're scared of tall buildings? And, for God's sake, why live in South Beach if you have any intention of ever sleeping?

Undoubtedly, many residents moved here due to a fondness for the late nights South Beach is famous for but ended up staying thanks to the area's other, more charming qualities. I settled in South Beach five years ago for many reasons. It's one of the few neighborhoods in South Florida where you can truly live without a car. You can walk to the supermarket, movie theaters, restaurants, and, yes, bars and nightclubs.

And of course, there's the beach: white sand to lie on as you ponder the crystal-clear waters that draw party people from the world over.

There is a natural price to be paid for living in a place that openly attracts so many visitors looking to party, whether from Germany, New York, or Kendall. Stop signs and traffic lights are seen as optional, the beach as a giant ashtray, and the bushes on the side of your apartment building are as good a place as any to pass out when you drink too much. At times, the debauchery and loud volume is part of the charm, but also a charm you can easily avoid if you stay away from Washington, Collins, or Ocean Drive.

Or so residents thought. Because a western expansion of late-night debauchery is what provoked the discussion for this new 2 a.m. last call for bars between Alton Road and West Avenue. Bodega, Foxhole, and more are pulling some of that bad behavior away from South Beach. As more high-rises and Airbnb's sprout up all over town, businesses in nontraditional corners of this city are looking to satisfy a clientele with a desire to get loaded.

Combine that dynamic with rising rents that demand a less laid-back tenant — one that might need to wake up early to go to a job to afford living in South Beach — and you've got a recipe for contention. In an afternoon at the playground with my daughter, one woman, who didn't want to be named, openly complained to me about the late-night debauchery in her neck of the woods. She lives a block from Bodega and has lived there for 26 years. These days, she deals with loud noise well into the night and bar-goers walking down her alley at a time when her neighbors are usually preparing the morning's first cup of coffee.

What's she to do now? Wait. Wait and hope that when the new 2 a.m. ordinance moves to the City Commission on April 13, she can get a break from some of the riffraff. But even if it does pass, Bodega and other newer business won't be forced to adhere to the new last call. So she very well might just have to accept this new reality in what was once a quiet(er) part of town. 

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