South Beach in Miami faces disastrous spring break | Way of life

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Florida’s famous South Beach is desperate for a new image.

With over 1,000 arrests and nearly 100 gun seizures already in this year’s spring break, officials believe it may finally be time to cleanse the trendy neighborhood of its law-breaking vibe. and party all night long.

The move comes after years of increasingly stringent measures – banning alcohol on beaches, canceling concerts and food festivals – have failed to prevent the city from being overrun with out-of-control parties and antics of all.

This weekend alone, spring breakers and pandemic-weary tourists drawn to Florida’s virus control rules have flocked in their thousands along famed Ocean Drive, occasionally engaging in street fights, destroying restaurants and causing several dangerous crushes. The situation got so out of hand that Miami Beach Police called in SWAT teams to scatter pepper balls and called law enforcement officers from at least four other agencies. In the end, the city decided to order an emergency 8 p.m. curfew that will likely last until April after the recess ends.

“We really want people to come and have fun,” Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola said on Monday. “It’s a nightlife town. We want people of all races, genders, sexual orientation. But we can’t allow people to think they can come here and play a scene from ‘Fast and the Furious’, hurtling down. the streets and firing guns into the air. “

Some tourists are angry at the curfew, which they say has put a damper on long-sought vacations for which they have paid a lot of money. Meanwhile, some officials say they should have adopted tougher measures sooner – as was done in New Orleans before Mardi Gras last month – instead of reacting amid the chaos.

But Arriola and other commissioners argued the city may need an entirely different approach.

They note that in recent seasons the city has steadily upped the stakes with new rules and regulations, such as banning scooter rentals after 7 p.m., restricting alcohol sales after 8 p.m. and cracking down on the loud music – in vain.

“Every year we come up with new restrictions and they don’t have any impact, so when are we going to try something new?” asked Arriola, who suggested hosting more family and business focused events.

The pandemic provided the perfect storm for large crowds: an unusually cold winter, a pent-up demand to be quarantined at home, and the allure of a sunny climate with miles of sandy beaches in a state with little of COVID-19 restrictions.

New Orleans, which attracts thousands of tourists every year for Mardi Gras, has managed to avoid the chaos that has erupted in Miami. Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, previously had a statewide mask mandate in place as well as occupancy limits for bars, restaurants and other businesses.

New Orleans Democratic Mayor LaToya Cantrell, also a Democrat, went one step further by completely shutting down bars in the city, even those allowed to operate as restaurants. City officials have also closed the iconic Bourbon Street to cars and limited pedestrian access for the last weekend of the season.

Despite strong opposition from Republicans and business leaders, Edwards and Cantrell were determined not to repeat Mardi Gras 2020, which state officials said helped make New Orleans one of the first southern hot spots of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If people think they’re going to come to Louisiana, anywhere … and engage in the kinds of activities they would have before the pandemic, then they’re wrong and, quite frankly, they’re not. not welcome here to do that ”. Edwards said at a press conference ahead of Mardi Gras.

Miami Beach took less proactive steps under Republican government Ron DeSantis, which refused to implement a mask-wearing rule and insisted businesses stay open. Instead, city officials this year sent text messages warning tourists of “Responsible Holidays or Be Arrested” and spelled out a long list of rules. The city has also canceled all concerts and food festivals, trying to avoid the crowds of crowds of people who have come forward anyway to gather aimlessly in impromptu street parties.

Some visitors have been frustrated by the mixed messages after being drawn to the state by a $ 5 million national tourism advertising campaign, the largest in 20 years.

Reg Mac, an Orlando paralegal, spent $ 800 on his trip to Miami, which he said was a failure thanks to the 20-hour curfew. He couldn’t wait to let go – and had even put aside some special outfits for the after-hours scene.

“I expected to go out to enjoy the nightlife,” said Mac, who returned to her hotel room to sleep. “The food was terrible and the service was poor.

Deaja Atwaters, who traveled from Harker Heights, TX, added: “It’s a shame you can’t do everything we want to do, what we plan to do, but we’re going to make the most of it. “

Miami Beach officials said the party crowd was mostly adults from out of state, not college students. They said many of them don’t even frequent local restaurants and businesses.

“Not all people who visit Miami Beach are bad and come to Miami Beach with the intention of breaking the law and disrupting our quality of life, but it’s a different situation and calls for drastic measures,” he said. said Acting City Manager Raul Aguila, who declared an emergency curfew.


This story has been corrected to show that New Orleans officials, not Edwards, closed Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.


Kennedy reported from Fort Lauderdale. Associated Press editors Kevin McGill in New Orleans and Anila Yoganathan in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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