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City Commission Could Ban Pole Dancing, Chain Restaurants, and Medical Marijuana on Ocean Drive

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This summer, after a heated discussion about crime, shady business practices, and general seediness on Ocean Drive, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine asked Commissioner Ricky Arriola to meet with business owners and residents to devise a plan of attack. 

Today, at its first meeting since the summer break, the commission will discuss the result of the six-week strategy session. Among the highlights of Arriola's 11-page plan? Bans on pole dancing, chain restaurants, and medical marijuana dispensaries.

"We're outlining expectations for the kinds of businesses we'd like to see there," Arriola says. The goal is an eventual makeover of Ocean Drive so the city's iconic stretch is "safe and enjoyable, and good for business, tourists, and residents."

The restrictions on pole dancing, nudity, and other "adult entertainment" come on the heels of summertime rumors that King of Diamonds, a North Miami Beach strip club immortalized in a slew of rap songs, was opening a location on Ocean Drive.

That wasn't exactly true. Last month, rapper Akinyele, KOD's former owner, said he was simply trying to open a soul-food restaurant with some South Beach sex appeal.

Though Arriola says the pole-dancing ban isn't aimed at any one business, the commissioner believes it's important to reinforce the city's existing laws.

"Certain things were already on the book, but for anyone that was thinking about opening a strip-club-type thing, it’s making it known that it would be a clear violation," he says. 

If the proposal is approved, liquor stores, tattoo parlors, pawnshops, check-cashing stores, and medical marijuana dispensaries would also become unwelcome on Ocean Drive. 

"These kinds of retail establishments chase away more desirable and upscale restaurants and other retailers and ultimately lead to blight along city streets and neighborhoods," the plan says.

Chain restaurants will join those businesses on the chopping block as commissioners such as Arriola try to stop Ocean Drive from "becoming a food court." Existing chains would be grandfathered in, but no new ones would be granted permits.

"If Ocean Drive were to all of a sudden become full of Hooters and Chili's and Subways" — all fine establishments, Arriola adds — "then it’ll cease to be Ocean Drive, and people will stop going there."

Akinyele, whose unnamed venture has yet to open, tells New Times the new rules don't bother him as long as they apply fairly to all Ocean Drive businesses. Yet he can't help but feel like there are more important issues to worry about. "We're just here to have entertainment and fun," he says. "Poles never hurt nobody. They should enforce other things, like gun laws, so we don't have George Zimmermans killing kids out here."

Not all Ocean Drive detractors are onboard with the latest proposal, however. Sherbrooke Hotel owner Mitch Novick, one of the biggest critics of the idea of a strip club, says that although he respects Arriola's effort, it fails to adequately address noise. He also suggests it would remove a November straw ballot item asking voters if Ocean Drive bars should close at 2 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. He believes the commission is under the spell of powerful business interests on the city's easternmost street.

"They call it a compromise; I call it them compromising their integrity," Novick says.

Other changes proposed by Arriola include beefing up security in the area, getting rid of the tunnel-like "gauntlet" created by oversize umbrellas and tables on the sidewalk, and enforcing existing restrictions on open containers and restaurant hawking. Within a year, he believes, Ocean Drive could be safer and cleaner, though it could take longer to make a full turnaround. 

"Ocean Drive is really going to be a five-year type of story," Arriola says. "It’s taken 20 years to get where it is, and it’s going to take a while to reposition it."

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