At his annual State of the City address Monday, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber made one thing very clear: it’s time for the city’s entertainment district to go.
Gelber said he believes the city should focus on revitalizing the area to an Art Deco cultural district, something he said he has been pushing for since taking office in 2017.
“The entertainment district simply is not working for us as it has become an anything goes place,” Gelber said. “In my judgement, whatever the financial gain might be is not worth the disorder it creates. The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.”
Gelber added he has approached the city commission with various ideas, including moving up last call at bars in the area and says all ideas must be on the table.
With the spring break season in full effect, Gelber admitted the rash of tourists in the area further amplify the issue of crime in some sections of the city.
“This is a fact that we must acknowledge because that is the only way to properly address it,” he said. “This has only been exacerbated due to the pandemic when few other places have been open and plane fare and lodging is so cheap.”
Gelber said the city has worked to increase policing efforts, including community policing in some sections, while getting a promise of an increase in Miami-Dade Police units patrolling the area from County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
“We are essentially policing a playground used by other people,” Gelber said. “Frankly, we are policing an economic engine for the entire region.”
Gelber said he wants an increase in funding for more officers and cameras in the city’s commercial areas and the Beachwalk while also asking for a fully staffed real-time crime center.
Miami Beach Police are trying to crack down on crime as the department doubled down its efforts, and in many areas, there was a heavy law enforcement presence.
"The message is clear. Vacation responsibly or you will be arrested," said Miami Beach Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez. "It’s not a message intended to threaten anyone. It’s a message intended to be very clear."
On Friday night, chaos erupted when police were taking a subject into custody. Officers used pepper balls to break up the crowd and two officers were hurt. On Saturday, officers made about 30 arrests on Miami Beach. One of the cases was a narcotics arrest, allegedly involving 25-year-old Ernesto Martinez. Police say they confiscated crack cocaine, crystal meth and marijuana.
Gelber began the event, which featured a video honoring first responders in the city, speaking on the year that has passed since his last State of the City address - adding they worked to keep as many businesses open with outdoor seating while becoming the first city to issue a mask mandate.
“Our economy is so much tethered to hospitality, an industry almost entirely premised on gathering,” he said. “We’re just not a community built for social distancing.”
Gelber said 80 percent of the city’s elderly have received their first COVID vaccine dose.
“The state of our city, the state of our community is stronger, tested and more resilient than ever,” Gelber said. “We were certainly knocked down, but we are getting up.”