It was a total waste of three hours
The 3 am/5am bar closing time issue was heard tonight at a packed City Hall and in the end, the City Commission made no decision. Well actually the decision was to form a committee to study the issue of having the 3 am bar closing time become City-wide or just keep it in the Grove.
For three hours, residents and business owners took turns speaking to the Commission, although it really was just Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff who needed to be convinced. It was a packed house and everyone had time to speak.
John El-Masry (shown with Village Council member Michelle Niemeyer above) showed up with a stack of police reports that came from downtown clubs in recent months, showing all the arrests and problems. John's idea was to have every bar in the City close at 3 am to prevent drunk driving and fights, not just Coconut Grove's bar, his bar actually, Mr. Moe's, the only one which would be affected by a change back to 5 am.
Janet Mondshein, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Miami (MADD) also agreed that city-wide 3 am and even 2 am would solve a lot of problems. She was obviously brought in by the Commissioner to speak on behalf of his cause, but in the end, she was even shot down in that the people in other districts of the City are still free to drink until 5 am, 7 am and even 24 hours in some cases, not really helping Ms. Mondshein's cause at all to keep drunk drivers off the roads at that hour.
At the beginning of the meeting, a presentation was shown that proved how crime and deaths went down dramatically after 3 am, when drinking is stopped.
"Spread the good news everywhere!" is what John El-Masry said to Commissioner Sarnoff -- meaning, let the rest of the City and even County, share the goodness that earlier bar closings bring. He accused Sarnoff of being a hypocrite and having a traffic circle built in front of his house and closing the bars early to just keep traffic out of the Grove and particularly off his Street (Virginia Street) and not as a reason to protect early morning bikers and others from drunk drivers, which has been his reasoning of changing the bar closing time to 3 am for the past two years.
Some residents, like Jim McMasters made no sense in agreeing that some districts should keep 5 am and just the Grove and select spots should close earlier. Why not save lives everywhere? Why are we so blessed in the Grove to be graced with early bar closings?
Lilliana Dones made the greatest case for everyone to come to their senses. She said the Grove is known for its festivals of which there are many. And with these festivals we have beer and liquore sponsors and during the festivals from 11 to 6 pm or later, we serve these drinks and then at closing time, 6 pm or 7 pm, we wave everyone off to drive home drunk.
Andrew Leeds, owner of the former Temple nightclub location was furious. He says he cannot rent the spot out because of the disadvantage of the Grove's earlier closing time. He does have one business eyeing the spot -- a drug rehab center. Is that what we want instead?
All in all, dozens of people spoke for hours on either side and nothing was decided in the end. Mayor Tomas Regalado sat in the audience through the whole debate, but made no attempt to step in, aside from saying things like better street lighting and parking would help more than the extra two hours from 3 am to 5 am or the City-wide change to 3 am closing time for all. You can see him below listening in as Village Council Chairman Patrick Sessions give his views to Commissioner Sarnoff, on leveling the playing field with Same AM for all.
YOU MAY NOT LIFT THE PHOTOS & TEXT. IT'S COPYRIGHTED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. YOU CAN HOWEVER SHARE A STORY ON SOCIAL MEDIA BY USING THE LINKS HERE.
For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.