MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach City Commission held an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss extended curfews and causeway closures as they try to get a handle on unruly crowds visiting the city during spring break.
The commission decided unanimously that the curfew should be extended for the next three weekends and enforced Thursday through Sunday until at least April 12, which is the official end of spring break.
On Sunday night, South Beach faced its second night of a mandatory evening curfew in the city’s entertainment district or High Impact Zone.
The 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is for the area bounded by 5th Street on the south, 16th Street on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the west, and Ocean Drive on the east.
However, other areas in Miami Beach are open for residents and visitors after the 8 p.m. curfew in the High Impact Zone, such as Lincoln Road, South of Fifth, Sunset Harbour, Collins Park, 41st Street, and North Beach.
On Saturday, police fired pepper balls into a crowd of people determined to stay ignoring the city’s state of emergency that imposed the curfew. The move was necessary said Miami Beach’s police chief Richard Clements, adding that his officers are overwhelmed.
“The curfew went well. We obviously, with the late notification, expected there to be some residuals or people who had not heard that the curfew was in place,” Clements said. “At 9 p.m. we started actively moving and people started going to their hotels and airbnbs.”
The crowds have spawned chaos and crime in some cases. Restaurants reported that diners were dashing out on paying their checks and an outside patio at one eatery was severely damaged. Some big businesses have voluntarily and temporarily shutdown.
Police have made more than 1,000 arrests in the past month. On Saturday night, 2 people were arrested during a traffic stop where guns, ammunition and crystal methamphetamine was found. From Friday through Sunday, Miami Beach police said they had made over 50 arrests and confiscated eight guns.
ARMED CRYSTAL METH TRAFFICKING: Last night, a traffic stop along Washington Avenue led to the arrest of two subjects. A firearm, crystal meth, and other narcotics were seized. Both subjects face several felony charges. #MBPDprotecting pic.twitter.com/327GWus8Q0
— Miami Beach Police (@MiamiBeachPD) March 21, 2021
“If you’re going to come down here and enjoy yourself, that’s fine. But if you’re going to push those limits and break those rules, we have an obligation to intervene and stop it,” Clements said during Local 10′s Sunday morning show, “This Week In South Florida.”
RELATED: In depth on Miami Beach mayhem: Watch the full episode of “This Week In South Florida.”
The city is under fire by some for imposing the curfew, who say it targets groups of people.
“We’re not targeting a group of people, we’re targeting conduct,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “We don’t like these arrests because it endangers officers and arrestees who may be drunk or high and bystanders. The only option we have right now is to make sure we can control our streets. No community should have to endure the videos you are seeing right now,” Gelber said, who added that 90 percent of people arrested are from places other than Miami Beach. “Ten percent are our residents,” he said.
The city’s causeways were shutdown Saturday night, but some commissioners said area residents were calling them angry after they were caught up in the causeway closures. Residents were stuck in traffic for as long as 4 hours on Saturday night, one commissioner said.
The commission is considering a dedicated lane that residents can drive through. They have also moved the closure to a later time — 10 p.m. through 6 a.m.
Only residents, workers and people with hotel reservations will be able to go eastbound into Miami Beach outside of those hours.
More from the city of Miami Beach:
Effective from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. a curfew shall be imposed ONLY in the area bounded by 5th Street on the south, 16th Street on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the west, and Ocean Drive on the east (the “High Impact Zone”).
Restaurants within the High Impact Zone shall be permitted to continue to operate for delivery services only.
Pursuant to Section 26-33(a)(1) of the City Code, the curfew shall not apply to the provision of designated essential services, such as fire, police and hospital services, including the transportation of patients thereto, utility emergency repairs, emergency calls by physicians, and individuals making deliveries from restaurants.
From 8 p.m. through 6 a.m., Ocean Drive shall be closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, except to city residents requiring access to or from their homes, guests of hotels requiring access to or from their hotels, and employees of business establishments. Other public roads within the High Impact Zone may be closed as deemed necessary by the Interim City Manager or Chief of Police.
From 7 p.m. through 6 a.m., all sidewalk café operations, including expanded outdoor restaurant seating, shall be suspended in the High Impact Zone, pursuant to the City’s High Impact Ordinance and City Commission Resolution No. 2021-31599.
All sidewalk café operators are directed to stack or remove tables and chairs no later than 8 p.m. each night.
All other areas in Miami Beach are open for residents and visitors to patronize after the 8 p.m. curfew in the High Impact Zone, such as Lincoln Road, South of Fifth, Sunset Harbour, Collins Park, 41 Street, North Beach and more.