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Is the grove killing itself?

By November 20, 20098 Comments3 min read

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).


  • roder says:

    It would be great to have those Mall maps (you are here, entertainment in red, clothing in blue, etc)…

    I'd prefer the 5am close time, but I'd also prefer some more neighborhoody bars & coffee shops.

    Which brings me to point about tourists – I love meeting them, drinking with them, I'm glad they bring their business here, but I'd like to have a more communal neighborhood and something less transient. I can feel the community here, but it's not like busting at the seams.

    It was a community of hippies, artists, and generally creative people that made this neighborhood cool to begin with… Once corporate america found out it could sell it to tourists because it was cool – it became a tourist destination.

    I know we've begun assembling a crew of techie/hipsters/designers and new creatives who *should* be the face of the grove. We need to get behind those people, give them an outlet to express themselves and make this their (read “our”) neighborhood.

    And I think bringing more/better live music (think austin, portland, seattle, pittsburgh, lawrence kansas, etc), bringing grassroots arts like the playhouse (revitalized or not (think some warehouse in brooklyn for performing arts), and a diversity of hole-in-the-wall/non-tourist-destination restaurants of various ethnic varieties ……. IS EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED!!!

    Oh and a coffeeshop I can sit on a couch and hack all day with my friends.

  • Grove Athlete says:

    I would suggest that you run the math and see the real impact to the city once you take everything in consideration (additional cost of police support, increased hourly wages to employee's). I hardly doubt that makes a big difference. Now on the other side, you are forgetting about all of the runners and cyclists that make use of the roads very early in the morning (some before 5am). Moving the close time to 5am would put the rest of the community in danger. You need to remember the athlete community also heavily contributes to the grove economy early in the morning (breakfast, coffee, sports stores as well as the few races held in the grove) maybe even more so than the two hours you are advocating for. Sad to see you are supporting to make the Grove a less safe place for others (with little back-up) for a few extra dollars.

  • If the restaurants and bars are pushing for it, they must have done their own math. To me its a psychological issue, for people deciding where to go early based on what stays open late. So the fact that the grove has eliminated itself from that equation is detrimental to their entire night's business, not just the marginal gains of the 2 additional hours.

    What would interest me is to see what kind of statistics there were for DUIs and accidents in the OLD days of the grove when it had 5am last calls, or south miami since adding the number of pubs and bars they've put in over the last 5 years.

    I don't really think 5am-6am cyclists/runners contribute much at all to the local breakfast economy, as most of the stores aren't open until several hours later. As for sports stores, it seems to me that the lone sports store in cocowalk is doing poorly with the current traffic & we don't have any actionable data on the 2 bike shops nearby either.

    I would posit that evening alcohol/drinks revenue is far more profitable to a store than morning breakfast revenue. Food margins are typically much lower than alcohol/beverage margins from what I've heard

  • Peter says:

    The real reason that the grove nightlife doesn't generate as much revenue as it could is because of the crowd that it attracts which is also why tourists would rather go to downtown/brickell/sobe. The grove gets a lot of high school kids, UM kids, “key rats”, and private school alumni. In general, a good portion of these kids mainly spend their parents' money and whether or not the money comes from them or their parents, they don't spend much of it. They might buy some cheap beer, a slice of pizza, or what not and some will literally show up just to “hang out” and end up buying nothing at all. The guys rarely buy a girl a drink and they all show up in flip flops, shorts, etc. The grove has catered to this sort of crowd historically (by having almost no dress code, rarely charging a cover, not maintaining a hard liquor license and thus only selling wine/beer at some places, playing the same old music [not bringing in great live acts and/or DJs], etc.) I can go on and on about the dynamics behind that nightlife but my basic point is that there's no mystery (and it's not based very much on 3am versus 5am) as to why the grove is the way that it is. If they want to compete with the likes of South Beach, they'd have to start selling $150+ bottles, charging cover, investing into building multi-million dollar clubs, having a strict dress code, etc.

    The south florida nightlife is something like this (This is a gross generalization but just some stuff that immediately comes to mind):

    Brickell / SoBe = Mainstream, Top40, Hip Hop, Dance, House, big money, big entertainment, pretentious facade
    Downtown NE 11 St = Club Space, bunch of people on drugs, Electronic music and DJs
    North Downtown / Midtown = Indie Rock Scene, Electro, Hipster, Vagabond! hehe
    Grove = Laid Back, Bar Crawl, Juke Boxes

    I'm not against the grove being open til' 5am, hell, I wish everything was just 24/7 regardless of what the business is, like a Walmart, hehe. But I think that keeping the grove open til 5am, won't do much unless a bunch of other changes occur. Without all the other changes, you'll just end up with 2 more hours of immature college kids throwing up after drinking too much beer…

    @roder I like the coffeeshop idea for sure, and that would at least bring in the intellectuals. I've recently visited DC several times in the past few months and they have an awesome coffeshop scene that's open til the weeee hours, that brings in a great crowd. Come to think of it, the grove should do something different like that rather than trying to compete with other existing forms of nightlife that are clearly dominated by areas like SoBe.

  • Peter, I'm not suggesting we compete with South Beach in the lets offer the same crap they do arena. Look @ nikki beach, they opened a bar/club in the sonesta, and it flopped. Why? Because they tried to sell $150 bottles and had restrictive access on who could come in and so forth. They tried to impose south beach “standards” here.

    I'm suggesting the 5am opening is basically a first step in the long process towards grove rehabilitation. There are a number of other issues they need to address anyway, crime being one of them.

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  • Grove Mom says:

    Born and raised in Miami. attended Carver. I love the Grove and glad I’m now able to be living here with our family. The parks and marina are lovely. Our family has such a good time, but it is sad to see so many closed store fronts. I don’t think staying open to 5 am is the answer though. I do agree with Athlete guy, that it would make for unsafe roads. We have so many people that come from surrounding neighborhoods to ride out to the Key in the early morning hours. We do need more culture here. More theater, concerts, better restaurants or more variety; and I love the idea of a cool coffee shop. As a mom, could I suggest some better museums? Why don’t we have a really great children’s art museum? Or at least something that would cater to both adults and kids? There is nothing like this in Miami. The Childrens Museum on the beach is an overpriced joke! Why can’t we have a great science museum? The Science Museum is so outdated! All the best cities have these things and in within close proximity for tourists to access to easily. I think the Grove could do something along these lines. We don’t need anymore night clubs. The map idea was great. What’s up with the info booth by the post office? I’ve never seen anyone in there.

    • Grove Mom, 
      I went to Carver too! Did you know the science museum is moving out of the grove in a few years? They are building their new facility on bayfront park. I think the maps would be key, there is no easy way for discovery of new places for visitors. The closest to a “cool coffe shop” is the bookstore.