If you aren’t a local to Miami, or even Coconut Grove, this may not be of any interest to you. But as a local, the topic is something I give great importance to. The issue that has been the hot topic recently is the bar closing hours in Coconut Grove. Currently bars in the center grove district are forced to close at 3AM (in its heyday the closing time was 5AM, in line with the rest of city of Miami).
There are two groups in this fight, those pushing to keep the 3am last call, and those pushing for a return to the more accommodating 5am last call of old. You might think, well what does 2 hours really do for a business anyway, that’s only 120 minutes of extra business. Well the issue of 2 hours makes a significant impact on a city where the party culture doesn’t get started till 11pm. This is a latin habit, where in countries like Argentina people don’t leave their homes until 1am or later to go party. Like it or not, this cultural element permeates south Florida’s nightlife scene, it is in fact part of what sets our party scene apart from the likes of New York, or LA. The fact that our neighborhood doesn’t have the same late hours that others in South Florida do (namely South Beach & Downtown/Brickell), comes into play when locals and tourists are planning their evenings.
So at its core, its a matter of competitive advantage, and the fact that our neighborhood is coming into the competition already disadvantaged. This would be akin to one boxer fighting with one hand tied behind their back, he may be a great fighter, but he’ll never have his entire arsenal at his disposal.
Now the late hour openings isn’t the only issue that concerns me. The other issue is that of discovery. The concept of discovery is something that intrigues me in many facets (information discovery, web discovery, etc.), and its particularly crucial here. As a tourist destination, its nearly impossible for venues outside the core to be discovered by said tourists. If you are not within eye-shot of Cocowalk, none of the tourists that are either bused in here or come on their own, will be able to find you. This issue could easily be solved by placing placards and maps throughout the grove. This could distribute the foot traffic more evenly across the grove, and help all the businesses involved. Something so simple could be designed and manufactured by people in the grove and deployed in 2 weeks. So what’s the holdup?
Maybe I’m over simplifying everything here, who knows. I don’t have any skin in this game other than being a concerned grovite. I rarely stay out till 5am, but know many people who would love the opportunity to do so. The grove has a chance to revitalize itself, and to position itself as a viable destination for South Florida’s entertainment seeking crowds.
Other things I’d love to see, but will discuss them later: more/better live music (think Austin), a revitalized playhouse (the money is there folks), and more diversity of restaurants (lots of empty spaces we can fill).