Video Captures 2015's Wildest Ocean Drive Brawls Amid Debate Over Cleanup
The ten-minute clip wouldn't be out of place on WorldstarHipHop.com — in short bursts of cell-phone video, it captures drunken screaming matches and knockdown, bare-knuckle brawls soundtracked with a thumping club beat. But the piece isn't meant as street-fighting clickbait.
The video was edited and uploaded by Mitch Novick, the owner of the Sherbrooke Hotel, as his latest evidence in a crusade to change Ocean Drive.
As Miami Beach commissioners this week consider a task force's recommendation for how to improve the iconic stretch of South Beach, Novick blasts the report and says his video proves that faster, more dramatic change is needed.
"This area has turned into a shithole," Novick says. "I expect my elected officials to stand up and finally admit, 'Hey, this Novick guy is right. We need to do something now.'"
Fellow members of the Ocean Drive Task Force, though, say Novick is dead wrong. While the beachfront stretch needs improvements, they say it's wrong to highlight drunken behavior as evidence the whole area is screwed.
"It is demeaning to all intelligent people to think that Mitch Novick, and his edited video, represent the joy and happiness shared by millions upon millions of wonderful people from all over the world of their exciting visit to Ocean Drive," David Wallach, owner of Mango's Tropical Cafe, writes in an email chain with task force members.
Novick has been beating this drum for more than a year and has already documented some of the craziest scenes on Ocean Drive — including the infamous video of a (possibly mentally ill) nude woman smearing ketchup on herself as bystanders jeered.
He says his latest video shows the reality of Ocean Drive: a nighttime wasteland of drugs and drunken brawls. "I basically compiled recent clips of some of the bad behavior I've personally witnessed," Novick says. "Make no doubt about it, this bad behavior isn't just outside my window. It stretches the entire length of Ocean Drive, from Collins to Lincoln."
Novick wants two immediate changes: a crackdown on open air establishments on Ocean Drive under the city's noise ordinance and a new vehicular noise law to prevent cars from cruising and blasting music around South Beach.
The hotel owner was one of ten local business owners and activists appointed by Mayor Philip Levine to a task force this year to study Ocean Drive's problems. The task force delivered a report yesterday to the city commission with 30 recommendations, from wider sidewalks to heightened police presence to stricter noise ordinances.
The city's police department also delivered a report showing that serious crime is actually down by about 19 percent in the area this past year. But Novick also takes issue with that claim. "Nothing police have done has improved the situation," he says. "I believe they're overwhelmed and will be unable to control the situation until noise is abated."
But Wallach and others argue that Ocean Drive's boisterous nightlife is essential to the area. "Miami Beach always has been, and will always continue to be, a tourist destination," Wallach writes. "Creating the debilitation of this world-renowned and absolutely iconic nightlife district will only return us to a period of depression."
Novick disagrees. But he says he's not holding his breath for the city to crack down on clubs and bars.
"There are special-interest people who are afraid that fixing Ocean Drive will impact their money," Novick says. "Those people on Ocean Drive are making a fortune, trust me."
Commissioners sent the task force's report to a committee for further study. Novick says he'll keep his camera out and will continue filming what he sees outside his hotel.
"My great concern is spring break coming up," he says. "Last year, it was shocking."
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