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Miami Beach Sets Midnight Curfew for Spring Break Weekend

by Staff

Escalating its aggressive push for a quieter spring break, Miami Beach declared a three-night curfew beginning on Friday, citing the large crowds it expects over what has usually been the peak weekend of the season.

The curfew will run from midnight through 6 a.m. each night until Monday, Alina T. Hudak, the city manager, announced on Friday morning. It will apply only to South Beach, the part of the city most popular with tourists and revelers.

“We did not make this decision lightly, but it should not come as a surprise,” Ms. Hudak said in the announcement. “We have been very clear about our intent to protect the public from the dangerous mayhem that has accompanied spring break crowds in recent years.”

The sale of alcoholic beverages for “off-premises consumption” — read: on the street — will also be prohibited after 6 p.m. each day the curfew is in place.

How to get a handle on spring break has become a dominant question for Miami Beach leaders since rowdy crowds began flocking to the city every March after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the city’s tactics have drawn charges of overpolicing and racism, as well as lawsuits over civil rights violations. This is the fourth consecutive year in which Miami Beach set an emergency spring break curfew.

Mayor Steven Meiner and some commissioners — who were elected on a law-and-order platform in November — debuted a digital ad campaign last month saying that the city was “breaking up with spring break.” They instituted a slew of measures for last weekend and this weekend, traditionally the busiest ones of the season, that included using license plate readers, restricting beach access, closing public parking garages and prohibiting sidewalk cafes on popular Ocean Drive.

As a result, there were smaller crowds on the streets of South Beach last weekend.

But this weekend includes St. Patrick’s Day — another occasion to party — and it has already started to look more crowded, according to the city. And city leaders decided to be more proactive than in the last two years, when curfews were declared only after shootings on Ocean Drive.

“We did not institute this curfew in response to a specific incident,” Melissa Berthier, a city spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We were very clear and consistent in our marketing materials and direct communications that a curfew would be likely during spring break.”

Even before Friday’s curfew announcement, some business owners had said they were suffering, with sales down because of the smaller crowds.

In October, the city sent businesses a letter attaching legislation approved by commissioners that allowed the city manager to declare a state of emergency during spring break and impose extraordinary measures, including curfews, as needed. Last April, the city announced a 2024 curfew, almost a year in advance, though commissioners later backed off that idea and opted to allow for a curfew if needed.

Some residents have welcomed the crackdown on revelers.

“When it becomes so rowdy that nobody can enjoy themselves, then that is a problem,” said Marilyn Freundlich, who lives in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood of South Beach.

But Jared Galbut, a co-founder and chief executive of Bodega, a taqueria with a South Beach location, wrote on X on Friday that the city could have given earlier notice of its curfew this weekend.

Announcing the decision on Friday, after businesses had set their schedules and made plans for entertainment, “shows the lack of thoughtfulness when making these decisions,” he wrote. “Last weekend was the right medicine, strong police force, businesses open and zero issues.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

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