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Judge rules that Miami Beach's spring break midnight curfew stays after 3 nightclubs file complaint against city

Judge dismisses nightclubs' challenge to Miami Beach's midnight curfew
Judge dismisses nightclubs' challenge to Miami Beach's midnight curfew 03:05

MIAMI BEACH — A court battle was underway Saturday afternoon after three South Beach nightclubs decided to challenge Miami Beach's newly instated midnight curfew to crack down on spring break. Despite their efforts, the judge denied their request.

According to CBS News Miami's news partners at The Miami Herald, who first reported the complaint, Miami Beach city spokesperson Melissa Berthier confirmed Saturday that it was filed by the nightclubs M2, Mynt Lounge and Exchange. 

The Herald reported that a court hearing was held at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in Downtown Miami, where city manager Alina Hudak was on the witness stand and being questioned by attorney Ben Kuehne, who represented the nightclubs.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Alex Fernandez was very outspoken about the situation.

"We have implemented the strictest measures ever to protect life and property from stampedes, the shootings, the stabbings, we've seen in past years," he told CBS News Miami's Peter D'Oench.

Fernandez had strong words as the City of Miami Beach imposed a midnight curfew for this weekend, which impacts the area between 23rd Street and Government Cut.

"There are shared sacrifices we make as a community to protect the life and property from criminals that we see year after year," he added. "How do you put a price on an innocent life — the life of a spring breaker?"

But, the curfew is taking its toll on nightclubs, said Michael Witt, the operator of M2.

"In lost revenue — up to half a million dollars this weekend," he told D'Oench.

The Herald reported that the nightclubs filed the complaint around 11:30 p.m. Friday — nearly 30 minutes before the midnight curfew began — in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, according to a copy of the document obtained by the newspaper.

The curfew "unduly punishes and penalizes the plaintiffs' lawful business operations and was done without reasonable or appropriate advance warning and in the absence of good cause," the complaint stated. Also, several big events at the clubs had planned for this weekend will be canceled, the filing noted, adding that the venues had collectively welcomed thousands of patrons so far this month "without causing any harm to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens, residents, and visitors of Miami Beach," the Herald reported.  

The nightclubs' legal challenge sought to nullify the curfew for the rest of the weekend. M2's Witt, along the owners of Exchange and Mynt Lounge, all shared the same concerns of losing business for themselves and their staff.  

"It was really to defend, most importantly, our employees," Romain Zago, the owner of Mynt Lounge, told D'Oench. "They need the income [because] after COVID, they are all suffering and struggling."

At a court hearing on Saturday, Judge David Miller denied the nightclubs' challenge, saying that Miami Beach officials acted in good faith and that the curfew did not cause irreparable harm as it was tailored to allow for some businesses to continue.

The city noticed larger crowds starting Thursday night, and last year during spring break, there were two deadly shootings and nearly 500 arrests made. The third weekend of March has had a problematic past for Miami Beach, marked by several other incidents related to spring break revelers.

City officials had warned residents, visitors and businesses since last year that a curfew was likely during spring break this year, the Herald noted. When curfew enforcement began on Friday, it went smoothly and police almost had the entire strip cleared by 12:15 a.m.

"We are grateful to the judge for understanding the importance of the curfew," said Miami Beach City Manager Alina Hudak. "We know this weekend has been an issue, so we are all here to protect and make sure we do everything to protect the public."

Kuehne told D'Oench that the hearing was "necessary" because it showed how to hold city leaders accountable.

"What it shows is that every government cannot just run amok and essentially close down businesses without having some individual review," he said. "There is no doubt that [Judge Miller] and the city heard that there are businesses that are lawful members of the community and that we think these measures are too extreme."

The curfew — 11:59 p.m. to 6 a.m. — is just in place for this weekend. According to the Herald, this is the fourth year in a row that Miami Beach has declared a curfew during spring break; however, unlike past years, the 2024 curfew was imposed despite a relatively quiet March so far thanks to the city's "break up with spring break" campaign.

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