The hoards of people crowding Ocean Drive in recent weeks dissolved into a much calmer flow now that a curfew is in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. five days a week. It’s a blessing and a curse for those who work there and depend on foot traffic, but don’t want the turmoil it can bring.
“People have left town, people have said it’s not worth it, they don’t want to be a part of that group that gets sucked in,” said Michael Wozniak, COO, V&E Restaurant Group based in Miami Beach.
Seven of Wozniak’s restaurants are in the entertainment district where the curfew is in effect. In an effort to adapt to the curfew, they’re now open for breakfast at some locations to try and make up the business from closing earlier in the evenings. Staff are also trying to send people with dinner reservations at restaurants that have to close for the curfew to other locations within Miami Beach that are allowed to remain open after 8 p.m.
Wozniak says his restaurants are now seeing 30-60% drops in business just compared to last week because of the curfew. He adds one in five hotel reservations are being canceled daily.
He agrees the curfew is needed, but says it comes at a high cost.
“Unfortunately you have people with pent-up frustration who want to cause problems and not be here for the fun of Miami Beach. We have a beautiful international clientele and they scared a lot of those folks away by their behavior,” said Wozniak.
The Miami-Dade Community Relations Board met with Miami Beach Police and other local leaders to explore solutions to the recent violence and turmoil.
One popular idea is to shift how they market Miami Beach and offer more cultural and outdoor activities to give crowds something to do.
“To have a real strategic effort towards how can we offer more and different things to whoever is visiting Miami and Miami-Dade as a whole," John Quick said.
Those plans have the support of the restaurant community.
“We are going to take this a week at a time, moment by moment bc we do think the plans that the city are doing are effective and will allow people to come and enjoy," Quick said.
Miami Beach Police say the curfew is working.
“Quite frankly keep those folks whose only intent or main goal is to come to the city to create mischief, keep those folks out,” said Deputy Chief Wayne Jones with Miami Beach Police.
That was part of the plan this year, but officials say their hands were tied for large gatherings because of the pandemic. For now, they’re trying to navigate through the next few weeks and prepare for more crowds come Memorial Day weekend.