Just weeks after the Miami Beach City Commission approved a ban on late-night alcohol sales and consumption on Ocean Drive despite objections by many restaurant and hotel owners, city officials say the change could be just the beginning of reforms on the iconic boulevard.
And one South Beach hotel owner says that change is long overdue. Mitch Novick, a long-time South Beach resident and the owner of the Sherbrooke Hotel (901 Collins Ave.), says Miami’s famed Art Deco streets have become a “cesspool” of “utter lawlessness.” To prove it, he's been circulating videos shot from his hotel of twerking, fighting and general bad behavior in the streets.
“There are women getting raped, tourists being robbed and beaten, a lot of drugs,” Novick says. “It has to stop.”
He says his guests — who come “from Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Italy, Turkey, Australia, England and Brazil” — have complained about the deterioration of the area in recent years.
“I ask my guests and they say this neighborhood is dangerous,” he says. “They have decided after 20 years that this place has changed; and it’s scary.”
Novick says the new late-night drinking ban, which prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol at sidewalk cafes, patios and outdoor bars between 2 and 8 a.m., is a “good first step,” but that Mayor Philip Levine now needs to tackle noise and zoning regulations to clean up the iconic strip.
Beginning March 16, Novick began posting videos of the scenes he was witnessing in South Beach onto the I Love Miami Beach YouTube channel, and sending them to city officials with accompanying email messages. The first video, titled “Hoodstock 2015,” features scenes of women twerking in the streets while men surround them and cheer.
In an email to the Mayor, Commissioners and City Manager, Novick links to the video and says zoning and noise laws adopted in the 1980s must be revisited. He recommends changing the noise ordinance so that audible noise is permitted only at a distance of 25 feet from an establishment, instead of 100 feet, as well as mandating police to issue citations to drivers that have speakers blasting.
The evening after Novick sent the video, gunfire erupted on Ocean Drive and Ninth Street.
Then on April 1, another video captured two separate incidents on 9th Street between Ocean Drive and Collins, between 3 and 4 a.m. An accompanying note to the Mayor, Commissioners and City Manager, reads: “I see this kind of stuff all the time and often roll my eyes, shake my head, and shrug my shoulders. I also think of my hotel guests who very likely awoke to this nonsense. The atmosphere in my neighborhood can only be detrimental to tourism.”
Just a few days after the second video, a tourist was beaten, robbed and hospitalized after a late night walk on Ocean Drive.
Novick followed up on April 5 with a video of what he calls an ”ISIS like group drinking and partying while driving” outside his home.
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Days later, Levine and commissioners asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would ban alcohol after 2 a.m. at outdoor cafes, bars and decks. The ban was passed May 20.
“I think it’s a token gesture to let everyone know that more change is in store,” Novick says. “Hopefully this is not going to be tolerated for much longer. The city will once again take control of the neighborhood and lawlessness will be controlled.”
On June 2, the Mayor held the first-ever meeting of the Ocean Drive Task Force, a team of residents and business owners — including Novick — committed to making Ocean Drive “safer and more enjoyable for all.”