Earlier this year, Fort Lauderdale declared the once-filled-with-promise open-air shops of Beach Place a nuisance following a string of drug-related complaints and arrests. Now the city is threatening to take away Beach Place's entertainment district status unless it cleans things up by making a serious effort to make sure drug deals and other crimes are stopped.
Should the city implement the restrictions, there would be only one bar allowed to remain in operation at Beach Place, and that bar would have to shut down by midnight instead of 4 a.m.
Beach Place, which sits across A1A and the beach several blocks north of Las Olas, has until December 17 to implement security measures that will crack down on the drug-dealing problems or else face restrictions.
Commissioners are also saying they're ready to start using drug-sniffing dogs in the area, per an agreement made by Beach Place owners back in April. The mall has yet to use the dogs, fearing it wouldn't look so great to potential patrons if the place were filled with officers and drug-sniffing K-9s.
But commissioners insist the dogs be used, with one official telling the Sun Sentinel, "If you've got a drug problem, then you need to find a way to get to it."
In January, the city's Nuisance Abatement Board labeled Beach Place a nuisance after more than 600 disturbances, assaults, alcohol violations, and drug offenses were reported there in late 2013.
In that span, police made close to 50 arrests, with 16 of them being drug-related.
Yet even with the nuisance label and police activity, the area has remained a problem for drugs, according to officials.
This year already, there have been 170 reported incidents, including a Beach Place security guard who was busted for selling drugs to undercover officers.
When it opened in 1996, Beach Place was supposed to usher in a new age of upscale retail goodness with a family-friendly vibe on Las Olas. There was a Banana Republic retail store there as well as a Gap and a Limited Express. Since then, the area has disintegrated into a drug-filled shady din, known more for its reputation as the rowdy lawless area of Fort Lauderdale Beach than a hub for dining and shopping.
The fancy retail stores were replaced with tattoo parlors and cheap T-shirt shops. But what draws customers now is a chance to hit up Hooters, Lulu's, Fat Tuesday, and Da Big Kahuna for drinks.
Beach Place's current entertainment district status means it can have multiple bars and stage live performances while patrons buy booze until closing time at 4 a.m.
Commissioners came close to implementing the restrictions a week ago but decided to delay the decision until next month.
An attorney for the owners of Beach Place says they are working on making sure they take the proper steps to do what the city is asking for.