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Miami Beach Mayor Proposes Ending Ocean Drive Liquor Sales at 2 a.m.

Sherbrooke Hotel owner Mitch Novick woke up Friday to news of three robberies in South Beach. Novick, an outspoken critic of what he calls "a crisis situation of utter lawlessness" on Ocean Drive, was incensed, calling crime on the stretch a "cancer."

He didn't have to wait long for a dramatic new plan on how to fix it. Today, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced a proposal to essentially roll back closing time on Ocean Drive from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. His plan, which is up for discussion Wednesday, would end liquor sales at 2 a.m. along the iconic South Beach strip.

Levine says that "everything from prostitution and drug dealing, to disorderly conduct and muggings" has caused residents to avoid the area while taking up a tremendous amount of police resources.

"Let's not allow this incredible street, which symbolized the rebirth and renaissance of our city, to now signify decay and decline," Levine writes in an email about the proposal

But while Novick praised the proposal as "a monumental step in the right direction," other business owners in the area are indignant about the possible implications. David Wallack, owner of Mango's Tropical Cafe, says Ocean Drive bars are being unfairly targeted for contributing to the problem, which he says is a failure of proper policing.

"Within our businesses is not the problem. The problem is out on the street, and that's the job of the police department," he says. 

Wallack says his customers aren't the criminals causing the problem, which, he says, "None of us [bar owners] are happy about." 

He adds, "It's totally separate. If you come to Ocean Drive and look at the businesses, it's not a carnival; it's wonderful, running nightclubs of people sitting and having a wonderful time and people earning a living there." 

If an ordinance passes cutting back hours in which he can sell alcohol, Wallack also says, "Hundreds upon hundreds of people would be losing their jobs." 

Novick, though, says the late-night drinking rules are part of the problem on the iconic stretch.

"The cancer has spread, and the commission has refused to deal with the zoning that's a magnet that lures in and attracts these predators to prey on our business owners, residents, and tourists," he says. "This commission has failed. They need to get their act together."

The proposed ordinance wouldn't affect completely enclosed hotel bars, according to the commission's agenda. Levine is asking for feedback from residents ahead of Wednesday's meeting, which begin at 8:30 a.m. at Miami Beach City Hall.

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