Deputies were clearing crowds in South Beach Saturday night after Miami Beach officials announced a slew of safety measures, including a nightly curfew and causeway closures, for at least 72 hours in an attempt to control rowdy spring breakers.
The 8 p.m. curfew became effective Saturday and encompassed Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue and Española Way, from 5th to 16th Street. All restaurants, bars and businesses must close by curfew, and police will also ask the public to clear right of ways.
In addition, the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle causeways will close nightly, with only one lane open for residents and local workers.
"I love that this is a beautiful place, that people come here to gather and enjoy our weather and our beaches," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said at a press conference Saturday when the measures were announced. "But right now, it has become too challenging in the tourism industry to continue that way."
On Saturday, some spring breakers expressed frustration with the new rules to NBC 6. "I just feel like it's really not fair," one tourist, Heather Price, said. "People paid a lot of money to come all the way out here, just to not be able to do the activities they wanted to."
"I think the curfew is ridiculous," another tourist said. "We just want to come out here, party."
One restaurant owner, Stephanie Vitori, said the curfew was going to be bad for her business. "We’re just getting back on our feet and now it’s like we’re getting set back," the she said. “Let’s all work together instead of just putting a hammer, businesses closed."
City officials have urged that guests staying in South Beach hotels should stay on hotel premises after 8 p.m. Sidewalk cafes will also have to close by 7 p.m., and the city's pilot program for outdoor dining on Washington, Collins and Ocean Drive will also have to close by curfew.
"This was not an easy decision to make," City Manager Raul J. Aguila said as he outlined all the measures. “We feel that this is necessary not only to protect our residents but our visitors including our spring breakers who we want to keep safe."
A Special Commission Meeting was to be held on Sunday in order to address the new measures and decide whether the city will keep them, modify them or adopt additional measures after 72 hours.
Mayor Gelber said he suspected that the volume of this year's crowds had been higher than in previous years due to the fact that "there are very few places in the country that are open" other than South Beach.