RE Miami Beach: “tougher penalties approved for sidewalk café violations”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber secured another victory in his proposal to overhaul the City’s Entertainment District with the passage of an ordinance that toughens the penalties for violating the Sidewalk Café Code of Conduct.

This is the third piece of legislation in his effort to get what he calls the “anything goes” attitude of the area under control. His vision: Create an Art Deco Cultural District that emphasizes the arts over raucus entertainment. Earlier this month, Commissioners voted to turn down the noise at 2 am on two blocks of Ocean Drive between 9th and 11th Streets known as the Cabaret District which had been exempt from east-facing noise limits. They also voted to create a Legacy Business designation that may be used to provide incentives or exemptions in the future for longstanding businesses in good stead. 

Under the new Sidewalk Café Code of Conduct penalty structure, following the first violation of the Code of Conduct within the preceding 12 months, the operator’s sidewalk café permit would be suspended for 24 hours. Once reopened, the café would have to close its sidewalk café at midnight until an operational plan detailing how violations will be corrected is approved by the City Manager.  

The Code of Conduct prohibits “hawking” to bring customers into a café, 2-for-1 specials signs, and deceptive business practices, among other things. While the Code of Conduct is citywide, the no solicitation provision impacts Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road, and Española Way. It went into effect in October 2019.

Upon the second violation within the preceding 12 months, the operator would receive a suspension of the sidewalk café permit for one weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and once reopened would have to end all sidewalk café business operations at 10:00 pm each day until an operational plan detailing how any violations will be corrected is submitted and approved by the City Manager. The ordinance requires the City to make “reasonable efforts to approve or deny the permittee’s proposed operational plan within five (5) business days.”

Significantly, upon a third violation within the preceding 12 months, the business would have its sidewalk café permit revoked for the remaining portion of the permit year. Currently, revocation is not applied until the fourth offense.

A permittee who has been issued four or more violations within the preceding 12 months will not be allowed to apply for and obtain a new permit for two consecutive permit years following the permit year in which the most recent violation was incurred. 

The new ordinance takes effect on February 6, ten days after its final passage, and is applied prospectively. On that date, the “’penalty clock’ would be reset for all permittees, for purposes of implementing the enhanced penalties,” according to a memo from Acting City Attorney Rafael Paz. In other words, the next penalty assessed to any sidewalk café operator would be their first.

Though the ordinance was part of Gelber’s plan to overhaul Ocean Drive, its impact is citywide. Upon passage, seven sidewalk café operators had three Code of Conduct violations and, thus, in a position to lose their permit with one more violation prior to the clock being reset. They are Il Giardino, The Carlyle Cafe, Il Bolognese, and Cuba Libre on Ocean Drive and Taverna, Ole Ole, and Tapelia on Lincoln Road.

Between now and the effective date of the ordinance, the City will conduct outreach to café operators regarding the tougher penalties.

The item was co-sponsored by Commissioner Mark Samuelian.

Paz’s full memo on the café penalties and ordinance is here.

View the original article here.