In an email sent from City Manager Jimmy Morales to the SunPost on Wednesday, Morales stood by his recent decision to close iconic Miami Beach’s Club Madonna.
“I continue to stand by my decision to pull Club Madonna’s business license,” said Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy L. Morales. “We used the exact procedures required by our city code. The club owner is now availing himself of the legal remedies available to him.”
At issue is Morales’ order to close Club Madonna in light of allegations that a 13 year old girl was dancing at the adult club. While the case is likely to end up in court and media reports of a Federal investigation of activities at the historic theater turned nightclub imply there is more to come, there is also a political issue.
Club Madonna owner Leroy Griffith is engaged in a legal dispute with the City of Miami Beach, dating back to years ago and a dispute with a cadre of club opponents led by then wife of Miami Beach Commissioner Saul Gross. Griffith claimed discrimination against the club by the City in terms of his acquiring a liquor license. Miami Beach doesn’t permit nude entertainment venues’ sale of alcohol, which Griffith has claimed hurt his business and been a boon to neighborhood establishments selling alcohol to go. Griffith has evidence of improper discussion of the issue, but the case remains tied up in court.
Representatives of the club or club owner have told the Miami Herald that they believe the move against Club Madonna was politically motivated. Neither Griffith nor his top manager were in the city when the 13 year old allegedly performed.
However, Morales has repeatedly asserted that the closing of Club Madonna was politically motivated. Neither Morales nor most if not all members of the Miami Beach City Commission were in their current positions when the conflict erupted years ago.
According to the Herald, Richard Wolfe, an attorney for Club Madonna, called the city’s actions “overreaching.”
“We will prove that there was no basis for the city to take the actions that they took,” Wolfe told the Herald. He would later go on to say that the City had targeted Club Madonna specifically because of the legal challenge and history of opposition between Griffith and the city commission.
A request for an interview with Griffith or representatives of Club Madonna was not responded to this week.
However, Morales’ statement might reflect the City’s awareness that there is a political component to the evolving story.
The alleged minor was a runaway and worked at least several days over the course of the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 when both Griffith and the manager assert that they were not even in Florida.
A City order closed Club Madonna last week based on the allegation, several apparently related arrests and reported ongoing investigation.
The story and related press coverage came at a time when human trafficking has earned its position in major media’s rotation of sudden millennial old social concerns. On Wednesday this week, a joint press release from the Miami Dade Democrat and Republican parties was issued, stating: “The Chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, and the Chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County, Nelson Diaz, have joined their efforts to declare bi-partisan support on behalf of one of our community’s most vulnerable populations — child-victims of sex trafficking. While we may not always agree on certain policies, the Miami-Dade County Democratic and Republican parties are 100% committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our society, children. There is no such thing as partisanship when combating the most insidious crimes, like child sex trafficking. We must all work together to ensure these victims receive the treatment they need and that the criminals who traffic in children spend their lives behind bars. After what we saw recently at an adult club in Miami Beach, no one can afford to sit on the sidelines; we must all do what we can to protect our children,” said Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, Chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and Nelson Diaz, Chair of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. January is Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month. On Friday, January 24, 2014, we ask that you join us in support of Kristi House at the 2nd Annual Walk the Blue Carpet Event kristihouse.org/blue-carpet-event.”