Hospitality industry outraged as leaked audio raises questions about 2 a.m. last call in South Beach

Demonstrators at a Miami Beach news conference say that in the audio recordings, Mayor Gelber promised to help investors willing to back his re-development vision for South Beach’s entertainment district, which he has pitched to residents as a way to curb crime.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Mayor of Miami Beach was interrupted during a news conference on Friday by counter-demonstrators who referenced his remarks in leaked audio recordings. Now, they are questioning the reasoning behind the imposed 2 a.m. last call in South Beach.

Emotions ran high as hospitality workers, who oppose a non-binding ballot question to roll back last call in the city’s entertainment district to 2 a.m., staged a demonstration at Mayor Dan Gelber’s news conference.

Demonstrators were heard saying, “No more lies!” which, according to demonstrators, was a reference to leaked audio recordings of a meeting that occurred over Zoom with the mayor in September at Miami Beach City Hall.

Demonstrators say that in the audio footage, Gelber promised to help investors willing to back his re-development vision for South Beach’s entertainment district, which he has pitched to residents as a way to curb crime.

The leaked audio recording of the mayor goes, in part: ”If you come up with an idea that you think might allow an adaptive reuse of something, we will want to hear it. And I commit to you this: If you want something on the ballot because it needs to be on the ballot, I’ll, I’ll put it on the ballot.”

Gelber goes on to say, “Look, I have said everywhere, I’ve put ordinances in. I have done everything I can to do it.”

One of the demonstrators at the news conference was David Wallack, the owner of the iconic Mango’s Tropical Cafe in South Beach.

“We have always been for the prosperity of Miami Beach, and that’s why this is actually so personally painful,” says Wallack.

Wallack believes the city’s crime issues stem from city mismanagement, and not from the number of hours alcohol is sold. And now, after he and others listened to the leaked recordings, he is even more upset.

Following the demonstration, a statement was sent in from a group of hospitality industry employees in South Beach countering Levine’s claim that they were a “paid rent-a-mob.” “We are not paid actors. We are workers fighting for our jobs.  We came today because the Mayor isn’t listening to workers – he’s listening to his campaign donors and mega-developers, but he’s not listening to us.”

See the complete statement made by those in the South Beach hospitality industry, below.

Also heard in the leaked recordings is former mayor of Miami Beach and property owner Phil Levine.

“We need to utilize whatever influence we have to push those six commissioners,” says Levine in the leaked audio.

“It’s for the developers, that’s the truth,” says Levine in the leaked audio recording. “You know, in politics, money plays a big part.”

On Friday, he was defiant. “And, by the way, if 2 a.m. doesn’t pass, we are going after 12 a.m.!”

According to Levine, another similar meeting is being planned for next month with more than 200 investors.


About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."