Busted on South Beach for Diet Coke
Sorry, Miamians. Your Fundays on SoBe are over. Unless you wanna pay a $50 (or more) fine, the city expects you to leave the booze, soda cans, and Styrofoam coolers at home.
According to code enforcement officers, all of the above are illegal on the sands of Miami Beach. Didn't know? Too bad, after all, "ignorantia juris non excusat" (i.e., ignorance of the law is no excuse for it). Talk about party poopers.
Alcohol has long been illegal on beach under city code 70-86 -- a fact unbeknownst to many locals and most tourists. So carrying a cocktail from Ocean Drive onto the sands can technically result in a fine. Businesses are also prohibited from allowing patrons to leave with open containers, which pretty much puts every Miami Beach bar in violation.
Luckily (for businesses and beachgoers alike), the regulation isn't heavily enforced, as any walk along the shore will demonstrated. Cocktails, beer cans, and Wet Willie's cups are a way of life.
Most locals know to take common-sense precautions -- don't carry glass to the beach, don't be an obvious drunk a**hole, don't do beer bongs in broad daylight, etc. A friend received a citation several years ago, but it was because he was holding a big ol' bottle of vodka. Understandable.
This past Saturday, spring break and pre-St. Paddy's Day madness was in full force, and thousands of people -- drinks in hand -- were reveling on the sands of SoBe. My friends and I were drinking a few beers and talking on our towels.
Suddenly, a code enforcement officer approached and crouched down to speak with us. Her opening line: "Where are you from?" She told us she had to issue one of us a $50 citation due to the fact that we had metal containers (no mention of the alcohol).
Cans are illegal on the beach, period, the officer informed us -- as are Styrofoam coolers.
Say what?! We gave her the fifth degree. Of the six of us, most had lived in Miami for four-plus years, some for their entire lives. One in the group was a lawyer. Not one of us had ever heard of cans/coolers being prohibited. "So a can of Diet Coke is illegal?" we asked. "Yes," she replied.
Both the issuing officer and her partner were unable to quote the specific statute. "Read the ticket," they parroted. We asked for their names, and the issuing officer's shirt tag didn't match what she told us -- questionable in itself.