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Miami Beach Considers Rules for Hotel Rooftop Pool Clubs; Proposed
Legislation Would Force Some Clubs to Close by 8pm

By David Smiley, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 06, 2010 --MIAMI BEACH, FL -- After months of discussion and speculation about a potential law to regulate rooftop lounges in Miami Beach, hoteliers and residents finally have something tangible to debate.

An initial draft of Commissioner Jonah Wolfson's proposal -- which some hoteliers have feared could strangle a lucrative aspect of their industry -- was crafted June 30.

The legislation focuses on outdoor establishments above the ground floor that sell or serve alcohol or allow its consumption. That includes cafes, lounges and poolside bars.

Should the legislation pass, those venues would have to close by midnight -- or 8 p.m. if located within 100 feet of a residential property or part of a mixed-use property with residential units.

Such venues in oceanfront hotels would need only be more than 50 feet from the property line of a building with residential units in order to remain open until midnight.

Closing times could be stretched to 2 a.m. through a special permit granted by the city's Planning Board.

Wolfson, who proposed the legislation amid complaints from residents about existing and proposed rooftop lounges, said he wants feedback before discussing the draft with members of the city's Land-Use Committee or commission.

"I want to go to the hotels and I want to go to the residents and I want to see if that ordinance is the best thing for the city of Miami Beach," he said. "If it's not, we will re-draft it."

The potential of a law regulating everything from an outdoor, second-floor cafe to rooftop venues such as the Gansevoort Miami Beach's Plunge has sparked protests from hoteliers since it was first discussed in late April. Groups such as the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association have said there is no proof that the law is needed and have predicted a "draconian" effect that would discourage investment in hotels and hurt business and jobs.

In a letter of protest, the association said a number of businesses from hotels to clubs and restaurants could be hurt by a rooftop law. Even if those venues were grandfathered in, rights to operate could be lost if a venue had to close for six months or more due to fire damage or other reasons.

Hoping to ease those concerns, Wolfson said language in the June 30 draft should exempt any venue existing prior to the law's approval from the new regulations.

"The last thing I want to do is take something that someone is relying on as a source of income legally and hinder their rights. The goal here is to take a future potential problem and stem it off," he said.

In the meantime, businesses continue to apply for and receive permits to operate rooftop bars.

On June 22, the Soho Beach House received Planning Board approval for a permit to run its rooftop bar. The Gansevoort is hashing out issues with its permit for Plunge and The Betsy Hotel continues to seek permission to open its rooftop lounge.


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