Miami Beach Mayor Rails Against "No Rules" Memorial Day Party in Neighboring City

Miami Beach Mayor Rails Against "No Rules" Memorial Day Party in Neighboring City
City of Miami Beach / Screenshot via Mayor Dan Gelber
City of Miami Beach / Screenshot via Mayor Dan Gelber
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was so irked by a Memorial Day weekend event flyer with a bikini-clad woman and the tag line "No rules!! Anything goes!" he included it in an email blast to residents explaining why the city needs, well, more rules. Attaching a screenshot censoring the woman's body, he declared, "Ocean Drive should be the postcard image for our city — not a stretch where residents are sometimes afraid to go and visitors think anything goes."

The mayor says the flyer proves the city needs to crack down on promoters who plan massive affairs in Miami Beach during so-called high-impact events, such as spring break and Memorial Day weekend. He brought it up several times during a recent city commission discussion about an ordinance he proposed to stop promoters from advertising events on major holiday weekends. The measure passed on its first reading and goes before the commission today for a final vote. 

"I do sometimes feel like the rigid father in the movie Footloose (John Lithgow)," Gelber wrote in the email, which was sent to residents last week. "That said, we definitely need to send a clear and unequivocal message so those who are looking to come here to act stupidly and unlawfully will go somewhere else."

The group behind the flyer, Orange Crush, did not immediately respond to New Times' request for comment. Its promos for Memorial Day weekend are light on specifics, with most saying only that the event will be the "BIGGEST BEACH BASH TO HIT THE SOUTH." The only address offered is for the Hangar — an event space that's not even on the Beach but rather in the neighboring city of Miami. (It's worth noting "No rules" is also the slogan for the decidedly not-rowdy restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse.)

Miami Beach has a long, fraught relationship with Memorial Day weekend. Since 1999, thousands of mostly young, black tourists have packed the island over the holiday weekend for a loosely organized event known as Urban Beach Week. City officials have fought it for about as long, citing unruly crowds and increased crime. Over the years, they've put license-plate readers along the causeways, ticketed people for loud music, and even planned a separate mammoth event in hopes of displacing Urban Beach Week. The ACLU and NAACP have criticized Miami Beach's approach, saying it is discriminatory and more aggressive than the handling of mostly white events like Art Basel.

Gelber tells New Times the problem with spring break and Memorial Day weekend is the promoters don't have permits, leaving the city unable to prepare for the influx of tourists. Without knowing how many people to expect or where they'll be, he says, officials can't plan as they do for events the city embraces. But he won't say whether Miami Beach would be willing to issue a permit for the Memorial Day weekend event. "I think we have to decide what works within the limits of the city," Gelber says. He notes he has never seen an Art Basel event promoted with an "Anything goes" tag line.

For now, the mayor says he hopes his ordinance will pass, and if it does, people might not even buy tickets. He noted the "No rules" ad claims 50,000 people are expected.

"We're going to be very serious about this," Gelber says. "As a mayor, I can't have tens of thousands of people converging on a city with an invitation that anything goes." 
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas