Election

VIPs Disavow Purported Endorsements of 2 A.M. South Beach Booze Ban

Two endorsements for the 2 a.m. alcohol ban have been rescinded by the people who purportedly made them.
Two endorsements for the 2 a.m. alcohol ban have been rescinded by the people who purportedly made them. Courtesy of a Miami Beach resident
In the weeks leading up to Miami Beach's November 2 municipal election, residents' mailboxes have been stuffed with political propaganda. Three commission seats are up for grabs, and sitting mayor Dan Gelber is seeking re-election. But at the center of the mailer blitz is a contentious ballot initiative to change the citywide alcohol curfew from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.

On the one side of the initiative, there's Gelber, who supports the 2 a.m. bar ban and was recently caught on tape with former mayor Philip Levine appearing to court support from developers and wealthy executives to transform South Beach's Entertainment District. Gelber's argument is that the alcohol ban will curb crime after a series of high-profile murders this past year.

On the other, there are Gelber's four opponents, all of whom oppose the 2 a.m. ban, and a vocal group of hospitality workers, who argue that banning alcohol for three wee hours a night will not only not deter crime but will lead to reduced wages and layoffs.

One set of campaign flyers paid for by Yes for a Safer Miami Beach, a political action committee (PAC) whose main contributor is Gelber's political consultant, Christian Ulvert, in support of the ban, features headshots of Gelber and former mayors Matti Bower and Philip Levine. The mailer states: "Miami Beach Mayors Agree, We Need a 2 AM Last Call. Join our local leaders. Support a 2 AM last call." The bottom left corner of the mailer displays the words "VOTE YES! #282."


There's only one catch: Despite former Miami Beach mayor Matti Bower's smiling headshot at the center of the mailer, Bower doesn't support the 2 a.m. ban.
click to enlarge A campaign mailer paid for by Yes for a Safer Miami Beach indicates that Matti Bower supports the 2 a.m. alcohol ban. Bower recently asserted the opposite. - COURTESY OF A MIAMI BEACH RESIDENT
A campaign mailer paid for by Yes for a Safer Miami Beach indicates that Matti Bower supports the 2 a.m. alcohol ban. Bower recently asserted the opposite.
Courtesy of a Miami Beach resident
In a Facebook video posted on October 7 by Citizens for a Safe Miami Beach, a group rallying against the 2 a.m. curfew, Bower says she opposes the 2 a.m. ban, as she feels the issues in the Entertainment District should be solved a different way.

"I'm supporting the NO vote," Bower says in the video, "because I think [the 2 a.m. alcohol ban] alone is not going to help the problems that we're having."

Bower didn't respond to New Times' request for comment. But Bower wasn't the only one who conspicuously revised their position on the 2 a.m. ban after Yes for a Safer Miami Beach touted their endorsement.

In a digital campaign flyer sent to voters via text message, Yes for a Safer Miami Beach included a photo of Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) president Paul Ozaeta alongside a quote that appeared to expressly underscore the FOP’s support for the rollback.


"We support the 2 a.m. rollback because it's the right approach for our community," Ozaeta is quoted as saying, employing a first-person plural pronoun (we). "The increased crime in the area forces tough decisions and diverts resources from other city needs, which is why a 2 a.m. rollback makes sense."

But on October 22, Ozaeta sent out a press release stating that the union has yet to take an official position on the ballot issue.
click to enlarge In a recent digital mailer sent out by Yes for a Safer Miami Beach, Miami Beach police union president Paul Ozaeta was quoted as supporting the referendum. - COURTESY OF A MIAMI BEACH RESIDENT
In a recent digital mailer sent out by Yes for a Safer Miami Beach, Miami Beach police union president Paul Ozaeta was quoted as supporting the referendum.
Courtesy of a Miami Beach resident
On October 22, Ozaeta sent out a press release to correct the record, stating that the union has yet to take an official position on the ballot issue.

"No statements endorsing either side of this matter have been made or approved by the governing body of our organization," Ozaeta states in the release. "We believe this matter should be decided by the citizens of Miami Beach at the ballot box." [Editor's note: A correction ran concerning Ozaeta's endorsement and subsequent letter; see end of article.]

Ozaeta didn't respond to New Times' request for comment via email.
click to enlarge VIA MIAMI BEACH FOP
via Miami Beach FOP
In a Facebook post on October 23, Yes for a Safer Miami Beach shared an apparent endorsement from the Ocean Drive Association.

But a screenshot posted in the comments purports to share a statement from board member and Mango's owner David Wallack — a vocal opponent of the ban — offering a "true perspective" on how the endorsement came to be.

"It was voted on without a motion, or a 2nd on a Motion," the post reads. "Drafted by Gelber supporter and Chairman of ODA, Jonathan Plutzik, and voted on by email response without the General Membership ever having a chance at discussion."

In a front-facing video posted to Facebook, Wallack says the Ocean Drive Association endorsement was limited to about seven members, and that 25 others associated with the board were not consulted about the decision.

“So take that Ocean Drive Association endorsement with a real grain of salt,” Wallack says in the video. “Vote no. Because it’s not about crime. It’s really about development.”

Gelber did not respond to New Times' request for comment about the rescinded endorsements.

Reached by phone, Ulvert said Bower had approved the mailer and spoken with Gelber prior to its release. He said Bower also requested that Gelber make edits to the flyer and that those edits were made.

Herald reporter Martin Vassolo has tweeted that Bower told him she hadn't seen the side of the mailer that showed her photo.

Ulvert declined to say whether Bower was shown both sides of the flyer, reiterating that the former mayor had been in communication with Mayor Gelber.

Ulvert sent New Times a screenshot of a text exchange between him and Ozaeta in which he sends Ozaeta the quote used in the digital flyer and the union leader responds, "Love it!"

[Correction published 10/31/21: This story has been updated to more clearly characterize Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) president Paul Ozaeta's seemingly conflicting statements about the FOP's stance on the 2 a.m. ban.]
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Alex DeLuca is a fellow at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca