The drink slinger who wants his Coconut Grove bar to stay open later squared off last night with the Miami commissioner who wants to keep closing time early during a meeting to discuss a change in drinking hours.
John El-Masry, owner of Mr. Moe's, promised to "light up" the meeting last night, and light it up he did.
"It doesn't make sense!" yelled El-Masry, as he lashed out at Miami city commission chair Marc Sarnoff in city hall chambers
Sarnoff spearheaded a change of the alcohol sales law in 2008 which brought the stop hour for selling alcohol from 5 a.m. down to 3 a.m.
To boost his reasoning, Sarnoff compared crime rates in the six months prior to the July 1, 2008 switch and the six months after. In every category he presented, crime dropped markedly.
Last night, he suggested a citywide review of laws that allow bars to serve alcohol until 3 a.m., 5 a.m., 7 a.m. or even some licenses that allow 24-hour alcohol service.
"I think we do need to study the city in general,” said Sarnoff. “I think we need to come up with better laws and better organization for what we allow in terms of drinking in this town."
But business has dropped at bars like Mr. Moe's -- a lot. El-Masry, who based his business plan on the 5 a.m. closing time, said business is down 40 percent. About a third of that is blamed on the shorter hours.
That’s $40,000 a month, according to El-Masry, who challenged Sarnoff to close all of Miami's bars and clubs at 3 a.m. to even out the rules.
"I have some stats myself,” proclaimed El-Masry, holding a heavy stack of documents at a podium. “This is all the 911 calls for all the other places in Marc's district that stay open until 5 a.m., 7 a.m., 24 hours."
The issue put bar owners at odds with homeowners and even victims of crime or their loved ones like Donna Clarit, whose two daughters were killed by a driver who got drunk late at night in the Grove.
"For a couple hours of profit?” said Clarit, holding a rumpled photocopy of her two dead daughters. “You can't put a price on their life. And a price has been paid on my girls' life for bars to stay open til 5."
Staying open until 5 a.m., according to Sarnoff, is extremely rare anywhere in the country. That's one reason why tourists, like a group of half a dozen college kids from South Dakota cruising Grove bars last night, were so surprised by late night bar hours here.
"If people started coming out at seven like the people do in, say, South Dakota, where I'm from,” said Amanda Kjedlen, “closing at two or three makes sense."