Thomas Donall wasn’t surprised when college students started flooding into Miami, after all, Florida’s southern beach cities are some of the most popular destinations for the 1.5 million spring breakers that hit the road each year (according to Travel Market Report).
But when the legendary South Beach’s drag bar, which just celebrated its 33rd anniversary in February, began to see intoxicated guests “ordering hundreds of dollars-worth of food and drinks and then walk out without paying the bill,” Donall knew this was different.
“The crowds we’re seeing are not our normal spring breakers,” he tells Out Traveler. “It looks like a culmination of COVID-quarantine overload and a stimulus spending spree.”
Still, Donall says, he doesn’t support the actions taken by Miami over the weekend, when the city declared a state of emergency, and announced an 8 PM to 6 AM curfew (with only 4 hours’ notice) and then sent in police. Miami Hearld reported that some cops arrived with SWAT, in military style vehicles and sporting automatic rifles, while others lobbed pepper spray balls into nonviolent crowds on Ocean Drive to force them to disperse. Miami Beach police have reportedly made hundreds of arrests.
“I believe the city has failed to take a moment to observe the situation,” Donall says. “This could have been prevented if there was anticipatory planning and utilizing everyone in a way that could have helped prevent much of the un-welcomed behaviors. I point blame at the city manager. Spring break is historic in Florida and the city could have planned better.”
Although Donall says this isn’t the usual spring break crowd he doesn’t think the demographics of the partiers is to blame (for example, he argues, “sexuality does not define a person’s behavior”). Instead he says, “This was simply an excuse for large crowds to blow off steam, sadly there were no rules in place or anyone to enforce them.”
The Palace, on the other hand, does have rules and Donall has enlisted addition help to enforce them at the 1052 Ocean Drive venue. “We have brought on extra security as well as a team at the door to do check ins and stop people from entering without masks or [with] liquor bottles, and stop underage drinking.”
He adds that while some tourists’ behavior isn’t appreciated, “Everyone is always welcomed, but a disregard for the rules and regulations is not.”
Donall reminds LGBTQ+ travelers that the spring break melee is a temporary diversion from Miami Beach’s usual offerings. “South Beach is amazing all the time with its culture, art deco, and various beach events,” he says. “The current spring break situation is by participation. If you visit and want to enjoy a different vibe and a nice meal and drag show with no drama Palace is always the spot. For visitors who want to relax and soak in the sun, the new 11th street gay beach is a fabulous respite to laugh, love, and relax.”
For more than three decades, the Palace Restaurant and Bar has offered great food and specialty drinks. Currently open seven days a week, it features the area’s top-rated weekend drag brunch.