While some in the City of Miami Beach;s political establishment hate to admit it, adult erotic dance club, Club Madonna of an icon in the city – one the Miami Beach’s most popular destinations and yet, still, a strip club governed by Miami Beach’s antiquated morality laws. Yes, for the uninitiated, Club Maddona is not permitted full nude entertainment while serving alcohol. It’s been a detriment to the club while helping local liquor stores make a fortune – including one at least once owned by the one-time city commissioner whose wife subsequently launched a moral crusade against the club while simultaneously profiting, according to documents referenced in previous news reports.
The City of Miami Beach subsequently came down on the club, was found violating principle if not the laws of the state by conspiring secretly against the club and had otherwise made a symbol of the city’s morality of the club – while, at the same time, corruption related to city taxpayer dollars ran amok and virtually unchecked at city hall.
To say the least, the City of Miami Beach – checkered with internal corruption and cronyism — doesn’t like Club Madonna or its owner, Leroy Griffith. This is despite the fact that the city prides itself on being modern and progressive, ignored nude sunbathers, and can’t seem to eradicate city hall of criminality. But, for whatever reason, and despite little concern with internal ethics over the past two decades, likes to make an example of Club Madonna, a business that operated within the parameters of more mature municipalities like Miami-Dade County and more honest governments such as even the City of North Miami.
But, over time, Griffith has challenged the judgment of the actions of Miami Beach, which at least deserve observation for overt criminal collusion.
This week, Club Madonna struck back. First accused of hiring an under-age dancer and then of owing the City of Miami Beach a fortune of fines, the City has done pretty much everything in its ability to destroy the club and its owner, despite the fact that similar businesses operate all over South Florida and the United States. No, administration members accepting bribes seems to be warrant long-term investigation. But a nude club in a conservative city like Miami Beach? Clearly, the city is dedicated towards the destruction of those businesses, even while jokingly portraying itself as a European-type metropolis.
Griffith and Madonna are not sitting still for the latest accusations about back fees owed the City, its latest maneuver to make the city safe for Middle American tourists offended by nudity. Even is statistics prove Middle America doesn’t visit Miami Beach, at least not for more than a few hours on average before jumping on a bikini-laden cruise ship.
“This is in response to your letter to our client Club Madonna, Inc., dated January 27, 2014 regarding an alleged violation of the Miami Beach City Code Section 102-307(a),” attorney R. Wolfe wrote in a memo to City Manager Jimmy Morales this week, and obtained by SunPost. “For the subsequent reasons, our client vehemently repudiates all alleged violations of Section 102-307(a) and any related sections of the Miami Beach City Code. We oppose any efforts to attempt to close our client’s business (yet again) and will seek damages should you choose to take that punitive action.
“Our client openly admits to the sale of non-alcoholic beverages and soft drinks to patrons at its place of business. That has been known to the city for more than 20 years, during which time, the city has never claimed that the resort tax was due, until the recent disputes with the City and our client has escalated.
“Nevertheless, no resort tax is due to the city.
“A careful reading of Section 102-307(a) reveals that the tax violation in question applies to the sale of beverages at restaurants. Section 102-306 defines ‘restaurants’ for purposes of the Miami Beach City Code as, ‘any business or place for serving food or refreshments required by law to be licensed by the hotel and restaurant commission of the state, or any premises licensed by the city for sale of intoxicating liquor or wine.’
“There is no question our client is not licensed by the city to sell intoxicating liquor or wine.” the attorney continued. “Thus, in order to be liable under Section 102-307(a) our client must be required by law to be licensed by the Hotel and Restaurant Commission of Florida.
“For licensing purposes The Hotel and Restaurant Commission of Florida defines a restaurant under §509.013(5)(a) as a ‘public food service establishment,’ which means any building, vehicle, place, or structure, or any room or division in a building, vehicle, place, or structure where food is prepared, served, or sold for immediate consumption on or in the vicinity of the premises; called for or taken out by customers; or prepared prior to being delivered to another location for consumption.
“The Hotel and Restaurant Commission then lists several exclusions from the definition of a “public food service establishment”. One such exclusion under §509.013(5)(b)(6) is, ‘any place of business where the food available for consumption is limited to ice, beverages with or without garnishment, popcorn, or prepackaged items sold without additions or preparation.’”
“Furthermore, the Hotel and Restaurant Commission excludes under §509.013(5)(b)(7), ‘any theater, if the primary use is as a theater and if patron service is limited to food items customarily served to the admittees of theaters.’
“Our client solely serves non-alcoholic beverages, which puts it under the exclusion of §509.013(5)(b)(6). Additionally, our clients business is primarily used as a theater. Thus, our client can serve beverages and food items customarily served to admittees of theaters without becoming a restaurant according to The Hotel and Restaurant Commission of Florida.
It is also worth noting that at no time in the past 15 to 25 years has the City of Miami Beach asked our client to obtain a license from The Hotel and Restaurant Commission of Florida or file any related tax reports. As a result of the foregoing information, our client respectfully objects to your claim that taxes are due pursuant to Miami Beach City Code Section 102-307(a).”
Club Madonna served no alcohol and limited if any food. On the face of the law, Club Madonna appears correct and the City’s alleged lack of demand to apply to The Hotel and Restaurant Commission of Florida appears to demonstrate its awareness of the truth.
But truth has had little to do with the City’s war on Club Madonna. In fact, according to statements from reviewing ethic bodies, the City has repeatedly acted at minimum in bad faith and possibly illegally. It was a former commissioner’s wife who launched the assault against Madonna (the same commissioner who in media reports allegedly owns a nearby liquor store that benefits from Madonna’s inability to sell liquor), and since then, it appears to outsiders that the City is simply spitefully protecting its political establishment to the detriment of law, State code and the findings of reviewing bodies.
At press time, Morales, who was not city manager when the jihad against Club Madonna began, had apparently not replied to the letter contesting dubious allegations that the club owed the City fees. This has just been the latest maneuver against Club Madonna, whose owner claims to have been solicited for bribes from previous commission members.
“I have no idea why a city in which people sunbathe nude, where the primary attraction is sex and alcohol and partying would single out that club,” said Edgar Winston, of Miami, a frequent visitor who has often visited Club Madonna. ” You know if it was a gay club and the City tried this kind of abuse and extortion, there would be hell to pay. Ironic for a city that has at different time tried to eliminate Jews and gays from the population. This is so transparent, it’s embarrassing to the city. But when you have members of the administration arrested for corruption and still listen to their advice on major development deals, it isn’t like anyone with a brain could think there is anything ethical in Miami Beach. It’s as corrupt as when the [Cosa Nostra]. Only now they use poor lawyers, who have to hate all the lies, instead of guns. Either way, it goes to show you that his new city administration isn’t anymore above political retribution and corruption than any of the previous administrations. It’s the same as always. You got a friend in city hall, you can do anything. Hey, this is a city that used to let developers sit on its boards and rule on developments. Corrupt then, corrupt now. Same-same. I just feel bad for the guy who owns the business since he could open in an honest, more conservative city and not have to pay everyone off just to run a business.”
Griffith could not be reached by press time for additional comment.
Meanwhile, the fate of Club Madonna remains unclear in a city of nude beaches, the World Erotic Art Museum and a city park that’s been notorious for sex-cruising for 20 years.