South Beach, also nicknamed SoBe, is a neighborhood in the city of Miami Beach, Florida, United States. It is the area south of Indian Creek and encompasses roughly the southernmost 23 blocks of the main barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. This area was the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, starting in the 1910s, thanks to the development efforts of Carl G. Fisher, the Lummus Brothers, John S. Collins, and others. The area has gone through numerous artificial and natural changes over the years, including a booming regional economy, increased tourism, and the 1926 hurricane, which destroyed much of the area.
In both daytime and at nightfall, the South Beach section of Miami Beach is a major entertainment destination with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants,boutiques and hotels. The area is popular with both American and international tourists (mainly from Canada, Latin America, Europe, Israel, the Caribbean and within the United States), with some having permanent or second homes. The large number of European tourists also explains their influence on South Beach’s lax and overall tolerance of the female monokini, aka topless sunbathing, despite it being a public beach.
The reflection of South Beach’s residents is evident in the various European languages, as well as Semitic languages and many other languages spoken. In 2000, 55% of residents of the city of Miami Beach spoke Spanish as a first language, while English was the first language for 33% of the population. Portuguese(mainly Brazilian Portuguese) was spoken by 3% of residents, while French (including Canadian French) was spoken by 2%, German by 1.12%, Italian 0.99%, and Russian by 0.85% of the population. Owing to the area’s large Jewish and Israeli community, Yiddish was spoken by 0.81% of resident, and Hebrew by 0.74%.
Lincoln Road is an open-air pedestrian mall, considered South Beach’s premiere shopping area. It is home to many restaurants and several night clubs, such as Score and Funktion, as well as many retail outlets. While Lincoln Road was one time rather downtrodden, it began a renaissance in the 1980s as an arts and cultural center. With its unique boutique shops and restaurants, it has had “an esoteric chic that maintains its trendy appeal.” (ref. Ocean Drive Magazine) It is located in between 16th Street and 17th Street and spans the beach in an east-west direction. Among the late 1990s restaurants on Lincoln Road was one owned by actor Michael Caine, and managed by one of his daughters. The restaurant has since closed. Lincoln Road commerce is greatly facilitated by the 17th street parking garage. The Miami Beach Preservation Board recently approved the closure of automobile traffic on the westward part of Lincoln Road, in favor of the renovation of the SunTrust building. The extension of the pedestrian mall is complemented by the opening of STAY at Lincoln in March 2008.
Ocean Drive is the easternmost street in South Beach, and stems from south of First to 15th Street, running in a north-south direction. Ocean Drive is responsible for the South Beach aesthetic that most out-of-town visitors expect. It is a popular Spring Break and tourist area, including the famous, yet predominantly local, Pearl and Nikki Beach night spots. It is also home to several prominent restaurants (including “News Cafe,” “Mango’s,” and the MTV-popularized “Clevelander”) and is the site of Gianni Versace’s former ocean front mansion.
Collins Avenue runs parallel to Ocean, one block west. It is also State Road A1A. Collins is home to many historic Art Deco hotels, and several nightclubs to the north, including Mynt and Rokbar.
Española Way, which runs from Collins Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue, was conceived by N.B.T. Roney (of the Roney Plaza Hotel) in 1925 as “The Historic Spanish Village,” modeled after the romantic Mediterranean villages found in France and Spain. Today it consists of art galleries, restaurants, and quirky shops. Over the past few years, its bars and restaurants have increasingly become a gathering place for the large Italian community in Miami.
Alton Road is the main westside north-south street located 1-3 blocks from Biscayne Bay. On the part that traverses South Beach, the road is host to many local businesses, including dry cleaners, small furniture stores, small grocery markets, non-chain restaurants and fast food restaurants. It is mainly residential once it crosses Michigan Avenue north of South Beach. The fictional character and protagonist from the first three games of the series Driv3r, Officer Tanner, lived on a fictional cul-de-sac, that spurs off Alton Road.
Washington Avenue is one of the best-known streets in South Beach. Running parallel with Ocean and Collins, Washington is notorious for having some of the world’s largest and most popular nightclubs, such as Cameo and Mansion. During “season” (October 15 to May 15) the street is jammed with traffic until early in the morning (as late as 6 am) every night of the week. In the 1990s explosion of South Beach as a nightclub venue, its nightclub moguls included Ingrid Casares, whose investors included the singer Madonna. Washington Avenue is also home to countless shops, hotels, and such noted architectural features as Temple Emanu-El (Miami Beach, Florida).