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Miami Beach officials institute curfew but, in some Florida beach communities, the party goes on

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(MIAMI) — Every March, Florida’s hottest beach locations are filled with college students from across the country enjoying the sun, drinks and energy of spring break.

But this year, things are different.

For the past few weeks, Miami Beach has posted public service announcements that encourage people to “break up with spring break,” and rethink their beach holidays after recent years have seen pandemonium in the streets, huge crowds of intoxicated people and shootings.

The city went as far as to impose a curfew last weekend, for the third year in a row.

The changes caught some spring breakers by surprise, as the big crowds of beachgoers were replaced with police barricades and a slightly subdued atmosphere.

“I like the low key but also for spring break, I also like a lot of people around,” Emily Ball, a senior at Penn State University, Harrisburg who recently visited Miami Beach for spring break, told “Nightline.” “We want to party.”

Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner told “Nightline” the large crowds have been getting out of hand over the last couple of years, prompting more police action.

About 30 miles up the beach in Fort Lauderdale, parties raged on. Beachfront bars and dance clubs overflowed with spring breakers. Hordes of young co-eds from colleges across the country showed up to let loose in the sun. . Beachgoers were seen drinking and partying.

Fort Lauderdale’s mayor trumpeted his city as a spring break destination, but the city did take extra precautions. Police provided bars with testing tools for drugs and lifeguards were given Narcan to prevent fatal overdoses.

Miami-based ABC affiliate WPLG spoke with Kephene Wash who traveled in from Tampa saying, “They broke up with us, so we had to slide down to Fort Lauderdale.”

In 2021, back in Miami Beach police resorted to using pepper balls to try and control the crowds.

Two years ago, five people were wounded in two separate spring break shootings.

Last year, two people were killed on the city’s Ocean Drive in two separate shootings. Video was captured showing crowds running for safety as shots rang out.

“The crowds were so excessive in past years that you had these modified stampedes. That in itself became dangerous,” Meiner said.

The mayor said that the new rules were not meant to deter tourists from visiting Miami Beach.

“We want people to play by the rules or obey the law,” he said.

Officer Christopher Bess, of the Miami Beach Police Department, told “Nightline” that “breaking up” with spring break didn’t mean that the city would lose its essence.

“We’re talking about the unlawful behavior, and that’s 365 days, year-round,” he said.

Ball and Marc Bijeclic, a student at Penn State University, Lehigh Valley, documented the subdued Miami Beach in cell phone video they shared with “Nightline.”

Although the spring breakers said they were enjoying their visit, it was still a shock to see the smaller crowds and bigger police presence.

“Looking at these videos, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. Like, what did we just get ourselves into?'” Ball said.

On Friday, the city of Miami announced a three-night midnight curfew “to assist in maintaining public safety on this spring break weekend,” according to Miami Beach City Manager Alina Hudak.

Some business owners said that they were concerned about the rising safety issues with each spring break, but at the same time concerned about what the new restrictions would mean for their bottom line.

David Wallack, the owner of Mango’s Tropical Café, recalled a stampede of people on the sidewalk outside his establishment during last year’s spring break.

“What goes on for spring break is a street party. They’re not really customers, per se, of our businesses, and that’s what also makes it so difficult,” he told “Nightline.”

Wallack, however, said Mango’s removal of outdoor seating was going to hurt business.

“There it goes, 30%, 35% of our business right there,” he said.

“We all have hope, but the reality will play itself out,” Wallack added. “It’s as the guru says, ‘We’ll see’.”

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