New law would require Miami Beach clubs notify police of upcoming events, concerts

·5 min read

Some late-night clubs in Miami Beach may soon be required to notify the police before hosting promoted concerts or live-entertainment events at their venues.

City commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposed ordinance that would require dance halls with a 5 a.m. liquor license and a maximum occupancy of more than 350 people to email or send police their security plan, the date of the event, how many tickets were sold and the names of the performers appearing at least 96 hours prior to the event.

The ordinance, sponsored by Commissioner Mark Samuelian and tentatively approved in October, defines a promoted event as “any live musical performance or live entertainment in which an entertainer is advertised or marketed to perform at an alcoholic beverage establishment.”

Samuelian said the ordinance would help police maintain order during events held at the city’s “largest dance hall establishments that are currently open until 5 a.m.”

“The goal of this ordinance is to help improve public safety and maintain order and resident quality of life,” he said.

But two of South Beach’s most popular clubs — and one of Samuelian’s colleagues on the commission — think the proposal goes too far.

Representatives from the Clevelander and Mango’s Tropical Cafe, both Ocean Drive clubs with live entertainment, said they are concerned about the burden the new law would place on businesses that host live entertainment several days a week and on police employees who would have to sift through piles of paperwork every day.

David Wallack, the owner of Mango’s, said his Ocean Drive club features the same rotating ensemble of musicians, dancers and DJs on a daily and weekly basis. If the ordinance passes, he said, he would assign someone at his club to routinely send an identical email to the city with their list of performers and the security or off-duty police stationed at the club. He said the city should let him submit one letter for the entire year.

“It’s the same performers, the same bands, the same DJs,” he said.

Any new notice requirements should focus on out-of-town performers, like the artists who perform at LIV nightclub or Story, he said.

A spokesman for Groot Hospitality, which operates LIV and Story in Miami Beach, declined to comment for this story.

Alexander Tachmes, an attorney for the Clevelander, wrote a letter to the city administrators and elected leaders last week calling the ordinance “way too broad” because it not only targets third-party promoters but business owners who market events internally on their website or social media.

“The major flaw in this ordinance is that it is not limited to 3rd party promoters, which everyone recognizes is the real intent behind this proposed law,” Tachmes wrote. “Because the law is not limited to 3rd party promoters, it will apply to all live performances of dozens and dozens of establishments that routinely announce and ‘promote’ events on their websites without the use of 3rd party promoters.”

Samuelian said the ordinance would only require police notification when a venue is promoting a specific entertainer. He said some venues already notify police of their events.

“This is a very basic requirement,” he said.

The ordinance would not allow the city to prohibit any promoted event from happening, according to a memo from City Attorney Rafael Paz, but would let the police “determine whether the security plan for the promoted event would adequately manage and control the anticipated level of attendance at the event.”

The ordinance carries escalating fines that start at $1,000 for the first violation but increase to $5,000 with a 14-day closure for a third violation within 12 months.

Police Chief Richard Clements, who has publicly supported the ordinance, said at the October commission meeting that the notice requirements would allow the police to know what events are taking place in the city on any given night and assign additional officers to certain areas to manage crowds.

“This helps us better understand who’s coming to the venue and more importantly whether or not we need to address it with extra staffing on our end,” he said.

Clements said the ordinance was inspired by previous incidents where police were unaware that a concert or event was happening. In one case, he said, a performer was booked at a show despite having a $250,000 bounty. In another case, he said, a feud between performers led to a homicide.

“We’re trying to avert bad things from happening,” he said. “I’m not telling the club owners who they can bring here or what the capacity is on the clubs. What we’re saying is it’d be great to be able to have further communications with the clubs in order to avoid people being hurt as a result of these ongoing feuds that happen outside of the city of Miami Beach.”

Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who was the only commissioner to vote against the ordinance in October, said he believed the proposal violates free-speech protections and could lead to accusations of racial profiling if the city targets certain performers.

“It’ll be ruled an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Such legislation has a chilling effect on speech and public gatherings.”

In his memo, Paz said the ordinance would not violate the First Amendment because it is content-neutral, and therefore applicable regardless of who the performer is or what content they present. Clubs, he argued, are not “traditional public forums,” so the city is legally allowed to regulate them if the regulations are “reasonable and not content-based.”

“Here, the written notification required by the ordinance is completely content neutral and applicable irrespective of the performer, content or message to be conveyed,” Paz wrote.

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