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How Miami Beach is trying to get a break from spring break

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Miami Beach wants to break up with spring break. Over the past few years, large, rowdy crowds, arrests and shootings with fatalities have overwhelmed police and residents. So to change things, the city has instilled radical measures to keep spring breakers away this year. Verónica Zaragovia from member station WLRN spoke to some businesses in the popular South Beach neighborhood about the crackdown.

VERÓNICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: Miami Beach put out a video announcing to visitors that the spring break relationship is over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Hey. We need to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: This isn't working anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: And it's not us. It's you.

ZARAGOVIA: The video shows young, diverse people talking about how they enjoy themselves here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Our idea of a good time is relaxing on the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: Hitting up the spa.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Or checking out a new restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: You just want to get drunk in public and ignore laws.

ZARAGOVIA: To end its appeal to spring breakers, the state deployed troopers here. Police have set up security checkpoints, and public parking lots are closed. The city has banned scooter and motorcycle rentals for the next two weekends. Emmanuel Lopez rents scooters on the beach, but he's OK with the crackdown.

EMMANUEL LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

ZARAGOVIA: Lopez says, "this destination needs to be 100% safe and fun, and everyone should work together towards that goal." He really wants Miami Beach to avoid the violent images from past spring breaks. That only happens if businesses make these sacrifices, says Troy Wright. He leads a nonprofit that advocates for local businesses in South Beach.

TROY WRIGHT: For the restaurants, for the hotels, things may get a little challenging ahead. But believe me that things that are changing are done for your good and for changing the beach positively.

ZARAGOVIA: The challenge is real for David Wallack, who owns Mango's Tropical Cafe on Ocean Drive, where the city has banned sidewalk seating for the next two weekends.

DAVID WALLACK: And I totally understand the city's decisions in doing all of this. But when you talk about for a business - any business, not just my business - and all my staff, really, making a living for their families, it's devastating.

ZARAGOVIA: Another big challenge this year is parking. The city has closed most public lots and jacked up prices at others. One is charging a hundred dollars to park. Mitch Novick owns the Sherbrooke Hotel in South Beach, which does not have parking.

MITCH NOVICK: One of my hotel guests rescheduled their trip from March to April when I alerted them. It's not just a hundred dollars. We'll just bite the bullet on the weekend. But with the closures, they decided ultimately to reschedule, unfortunately.

ZARAGOVIA: Novick's customer base is not young people coming for spring break but families, and he doesn't want to lose them.

NOVICK: I'm worried about the negative experience my guests might have outside, and I hear about them. The biggest blow is when they say, Mitch, we're no longer coming back here. That hurts.

ZARAGOVIA: The breakup with spring break is supposed to help bring people back. Miami Beach Mayor Stephen Meiner says the crackdown will be successful if there's no major violence in March.

For NPR News, I'm Verónica Zaragovia on Miami Beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF LADY NATTASJA SONG, "FLOW FROZEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Veronica Zaragovia - WLRN