Miami Beach vacations disrupted by Spring Break curfew rules

Felicia Hughes spent $1,700 on four nights at a Washington Avenue hotel in the heart of South Beach for a long weekend out celebrating her niece’s 30th birthday. Then the group from Maryland found out they couldn’t even buy a drink after midnight.

“This was a bust,” Hughes, 54, said from a bench at the Chesterfield Hotel, where she and family arrived late Thursday from Maryland and found they couldn’t walk to a restaurant or bar after Miami Beach imposed a midnight curfew on the South Beach area. “I’m totally disappointed.”

Announced Wednesday morning, the midnight curfew south of Dade Boulevard brought another evening of thinned out crowds Saturday on Ocean Drive as visitors and locals headed across Biscayne Bay for clubs in downtown Miami, Wynwood and beyond.

The mainland migration hit the transportation budgets of some spring breakers, who found themselves with the option of buying rides to Miami from Uber and Lyft, or else calling it a night.

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Restaurants and bars on Ocean Drive were forced to close earlier than usual, on Saturday, March 26, 2022, as a midnight curfew was imposed by the City of Miami Beach for the South Beach area, because to two shootings the weekend before, that caused city ​​officials to announce a “state of emergency”. Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com

“It was $70 to Wynwood. That’s one way,” said Angela Rometo, 22, who flew in from Pittsburgh for a South Beach vacation with friends.

With restaurants, bars and clubs forced to stop serving at midnight, the curfew rules wiped out some of the busiest hours of South Beach nightlife.

A midnight curfew in South Beach

Fred Johnson, 32, drives a Crew Carts modified golf cart that takes people on short rides around South Beach for tips. He was inching down a bustling Ocean Drive Saturday, his seats empty. Before the curfew restrictions, he said his busiest time on a Saturday night would usually arrive around midnight, with another peak at 4 am

“That’s when people are coming out of the clubs,” he said.

By 10 pm Saturday, crowds were thin on Ocean Drive — and far from the throngs of people that packed the oceanfront boulevard the weekend before. Gunfire on March 20 and 21 left five people wounded and sent passerby scrambling. Days later, on March 23, Miami Beach declared a state of emergency and imposed the curfew rules.

Alex Fernandez, a Miami Beach commissioner, said Saturday night he expected more people to be out on Ocean Drive with two hours to go until curfew. But he said the city couldn’t risk a repeat of what he described as chaos from the prior weekend.

Thin crowds on Ocean Drive

“Is it less of a crowd than I would have liked to see? Yes,” he said during a walk that took him to the corner of 7th Street and Ocean Drive. While tourists may feel cheated out of a full South Beach vacation, Fernandez said Miami Beach couldn’t risk a situation getting out of hand this weekend.

“I think the city is fairest to its tourists when it provides them a safe city,” he said.

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A group of women twerk on Washington Avenue on Saturday, March 26, 2022, an hour before a midnight curfew imposed by the City of Miami Beach for the South Beach area, because of to two shootings in Miami Beach the weekend before, that caused city officials to announce a “state of emergency”. Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com

Over Fernandez’s shoulder was a room above the Caffe Milano restaurant that Harp Galsi, 27, and friends from Toronto rented for Galsi’s bachelor party. They didn’t expect to be staying on a quiet street when they booked their trip.

“We came back late last night and it was like a dead zone,” Galsi said. “It was pretty creepy.”

How to get a slice of pizza after curfew in South Beach

Curfew rules allow hotel guests to be out past midnight if leaving or returning to their hotels. For tourists in the curfew area past midnight, South Beach is closed.

“I couldn’t even get a slice of pizza,” said Dragan Matic, 34, visiting for the weekend from Philadelphia. “I had to get Uber delivery.”

For Hughes, the curfew rules scrambled her and her family’s South Beach routines. They’re regular visitors from the Baltimore area, and Hughes said they had planned on their first night to grab a drink at the hotel bar, then a late-night dinner on Ocean Drive.

Instead, only Hughes got ready soon to order a drink before she said the bartender cut off sales ahead of midnight.

“We were upset,” said Mel Hoskins, Hughes’ 30-year-old daughter. For Saturday night, the younger family members planned to head for a Miami club — either by party bus ($50 per person, drinks included) or by Lyft.

Hughes said she planned to stay hotel — and that she wished she hadn’t booked a room in Miami Beach’s curfew zone.

“If we knew about this,” she said, “we would have canceled.”

This story was originally published March 27, 2022 7:54 AM.

Doug Hanks covers Miami-Dade Government for the Herald. He’s worked at the paper for nearly 20 years, covering real estate, tourism and the economy before joining the Metro desk in 2014.
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