Politics: For Pete’s Sake, Give Madonna A Trial Liquor Period Already

Foes, City Have Hardly Aquitted Selves Well In Feud with Club Owner

It’s been 80 years since one of the most sweeping social experiments ever attempted in American history bit the dust.

On March 22, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, president only 18 days and up to his trademark cigarette holder in dire crises (a depressed economy, bank failures, mass joblessness, for starters) turned his attention to another pressing issue that mattered to many Americans – their constitutionally-mandated, 13-year-long parchedness – and signed into law an act that made the manufacture of beer and wine legal once more.

With FDR’s John Hancock – and the famous remark he is said to have uttered at the time, “I think this would be a good time for a beer” – the taps were turned on, the liquor flowed again, and Prohibition, for all intents and purposes, was drowned like a sewer rat.

Its formal obit was written later that year when the heavily-Mormon and alcohol-abstinent state of Utah (go figure) became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, reversing the 18th Amendment that in 1920 made Prohibition the law of the land and that had turned average Americans into bootleggers, rum runners, and lawbreakers if they so much as bought, sold, or made the stuff.

The Depression-era columnist and humorist Don Marquis wryly observed that Prohibition “makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into.”

THE SILLY HALL NANNIES

One would assume public officials since should have learned from this history lesson the futility of trying to keep alcohol from out of the hands and off the lips of those who want it and are of age to legally down it.

Those at Miami Beach Silly Hall still haven’t learned, apparently.

Their 1989 and 1990 ordinances prohibiting the sale of alcohol in any establishment allowing nude dancing are nearly a quarter-century-old and still in effect, despite that other Miami-Dade municipalities who adopted similar ordinances around the same time have since consigned theirs to the paper shredder.

 If one didn’t know better, one might wonder if the wall calendars in the fourth floor offices at Silly Hall are permanently stuck in 1990, or – worse – in the Prohibition 1920′s.

North Miami said OK to the marriage of nudity and alcohol a year ago. Two months later, North Miami Beach struck down its 1989 ban. Doral, Hialeah, Homestead, Miami, Miami Gardens, Pinecrest, and South Miami – all allow nude girls and beer to coexist side by side.

The last anybody heard, those towns were still standing and doing just fine, thank you.

And so it is – still – that the Convention Center Drive nannies continue to deny adults the option of buying a drink in a Beach nudie bar for fear that the supposedly corrupted morals of people who both imbibe alcohol and enjoy lap dances will pour out onto city streets and instigate all sorts of imagined horrors and mayhem, bringing the city as you and I know it to an awful end.

Now, if hundreds of thousands of rowdy revelers – like those who invade our city the last weekend of May – can’t bring this city to its knees, or to an awful end, how in tarnation can anybody in their right mind believe that one mere businessman with a nude club that serves no where near that mammoth crowd can possibly threaten civilization as we know it on the Billion-Dollar Sandbar?

Never mind that the annual (Dist)Urban (the) Beach Weekend regularly features bacchanalian shenanigans and misbehavior the likes of which would make the goings-on inside a nudie bar resemble a Tibetan monastery by comparison.

PROGRESSIVE TOWN, REGRESSIVE ORDINANCE

The nannies see no problem with 200,000 or so converging on our town every Memorial Day weekend, most of whom are here to have a legally good time, while a small percentage are bent on trouble-making, and many of both groups enjoying their merry-making – or trouble-making – with the aid of an alcoholic beverage or two. Or twenty.

The nannies, as they do every year, throw up their hands and tell us that there’s nothing they can do about the end-of-May takeover of our town, short of a re-routing of traffic and an enhanced police presence that depletes about a million dollars, give or take, from the city budget.

We hear it from them every year: UBW isn’t a city-sanctioned event, they concede, wringing their hands. Besides, we can’t turn them away, lest the ACLU or some other group sue us.

Just hold your breaths and bite the bullet, they tell us, and it’ll all be over in days. And trustfully we’ll still have a standing town in the end.

But the nannies do see a problem with allowing one longtime local businessman to serve liquor in his establishment, one whose dancers perform nude, and one that can seat no more than 250 customers at any given time.

 200,000 versus 250. Can you see where I’m having trouble figuring out why the nannies should have their panties in a bunch over one and not the other?

And so it goes that 23 years later, our otherwise progressive, liberal-minded city remains one of the final holdouts in Miami-Dade where a throwback to Prohibition still remains rigidly in place.

Here, that ban on alcohol sales affects just one adult establishment, Club Madonna.

WHAC-A-MOLE

There aren’t too many laws, ordinances, or regulations one can find that affect or impede the business practices of one sole business or businessman. But Leroy Griffith, Madonna’s owner for all of its twenty years at 1527 Washington, knows all too well the impact of the city’s prohibition on his business.

And it’s chafed him to no end as he’s applied more elbow grease and paid more attorney fees than many others would dare invest in fighting City Hall, trying to persuade it to drop its prohibition and allow him, he says, to “remain competitive on the Beach where almost every other club is offering some sort of burlesque-style night with one form of nudity or another” while lacking an adult entertainment license.

Griffith has been trying to win the right to sell liquor for a decade now. Less-persevering people would have given up and thrown in the towel long before that. But not Griffith, who, for an octogenarian, possesses more vim, vigor, and fight than men a third his age. And more benevolence and even-temperedness than many of any age.

He’s the mole in the Whac-A-Mole game: Try and try as the city and his foes may to whack him down over the years, he keeps popping back up, determined as ever to fight on.

In conversations with him last summer and more recently about his ongoing battle with Silly Hall, I have become acquainted with a man who is a walking, talking lode of Miami Beach’s rich, storied history.

A local fixture since 1961, he’s owned and operated more local theaters (and likely produced more entertainment) than anyone else.

He’s rubbed elbows with the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr., and Don Rickles, back in a by-gone era when the Fontainebleau, Deauville, and others along the strip were putting the town on the map with evening shows and club acts that rivaled Hollywood’s glamour or Vegas’s dazzle.

Historic preservation? He was buying up and preserving Beach properties – namely, its theaters – long before Barbara Capitman or Matti Bower came along to adopt preservation as their pet projects.

Civic activism? For years, his Carib Theater (formerly at 230 Lincoln) hosted benefit shows for city police and firemen, the proceeds going to their widows and orphans.

The man has pumped more dollars into the city and helped churn the wheels of the local economy, and for much longer, than most any of his foes have done or will ever do individually.

City leaders, term-limited and turnover-prone, only wish they might have as enduring an impact on the city’s history and legacy.

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING

To better grasp Griffith’s decade-long tug-of-war with the city, I have pored over legal documents, court filings, press clippings, news stories, and city hearing transcripts that stack up four inches thick, and viewed hours of video of City Hall meetings from over the last decade.

In this column, and the next, I will lay it out for you why the city should quit its pussyfooting, stonewalling, and hardballing and, once and for all, overhaul its antiquated city ordinance and grant Club Madonna the right to sell liquor.

If you harbored any preconception before now that a strip club owner is nothing but a sleazy, vulgar degenerate or that the city leaders and community opponents allied against him can do no wrong while supposedly standing on moral high ground above him, think again.

It’s been a decade-long tussle between him and his opponents, but it could just as well be a morality play.

In one corner is the long-lived captain of an adult entertainment empire who, though his foes continually trot out the criticism that he no longer lives in the city in which he maintains his club – as if that somehow deems him ineligible of having a say in city affairs – nevertheless has poured more tax revenue into city coffers, and for decades longer, than many of his fiercest opponents.

In the other corner are his foes, a myriad collection of residents, civic activists, and city pols who oppose him for various reasons.

In this morality play – beware, looks can be deceiving – his morality-trumpeting foes ain’t necessarily the side that has displayed the more exemplary ethics.

And the nudie bar owner ain’t necessarily the society-degenerating sleaze-meister some of his enemies might paint him as.

In this morality play, you might be surprised whose ethics have outshone the other side’s.

OUT CAME THE CHILDREN

Ironically, he would have already had his liquor permit long before now if not for a fly in the ointment: the involvement (to some) or interference (to others) of Jane Gross, wife of then-commissioner – and Club Madonna opponent – Saul Gross.

City commissioners, in fact, initially voted to rescind their ban in 2004. But then came a Planning Board vote that went the other way.

And then, too, came Mrs. Gross, a 2006 city-recognized “Woman Worth Knowing” honoree.

Displeased with the outcome of the Commission’s vote on the matter, she launched an email and phone campaign against it, warning that if Griffith was allowed to pour spirits in his club, a whole lot of crime, drug use, and prostitution would pour onto SoBe streets.

When the matter came back to the Commission for a second reading on St. Patrick’s Day, 2004, the tide turned.

It turned on the words of Mrs. Gross, who addressed the panel that morning. (Try to find video on the city’s online archives of her addressing the Commission that day and – poof! – the video mysteriously, inexplicably ends just as she’s striding up to the podium to speak.)

But it didn’t turn just on what she said. It turned on the comments of others who rose to speak.

Various residents and citizens from both sides of the issue spoke. A senior citizen representing a group of grassroots activists under the banner “People Acting for Community Together” spoke.

Then out came the children.

Few cheap political ploys can rival that of deploying the cherubic faces of children to supply the cherry-on-top pièce de résistance needed to push one’s civic cause over the top – and the grownups who opposed Club Madonna’s proposal did not waste the opportunity before them.

Not content to settle for what gasoline the adults among them could pour onto the controversy, Mrs. Gross and the PACTers rallied the principal of Fienberg Fisher Elementary and a few PTA parents to their side. And some school kids.

The kids likely went home with good show-and-tell stories to relate to their classmates later about what it’s like to be props at a City Commission meeting.

And it apparently worked. Swayed in some part by the fresh, angelic faces of the kids before them, the Commission did a U-turn and kept the ban in place, but by a slim 4-3 margin.

Observers recall Jane Gross leaving the meeting in a jovial mood. “If [Madonna's proposal] didn’t pass,” she was heard to joke, referring to her husband Saul, “I’d go home and give him a lap dance.”

Then came her thank-you email to commissioners weeks later for “keeping this Pandora’s box closed.” In it, she labeled Griffith a “tax-evading citizen,” sprinkling in allegations of past tax debts.

Unwittingly or not, she had just stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble for both her and City Hall.

PANDORA’S BOX

When Jane Gross took up poison pen (or, rather, keyboard) against Griffith in the spring of 2004, warning against the “Pandora’s box” the city would open if they granted him the right to sell liquor, she opened a whole different Pandora’s box of her own and ambled right into it: a lawsuit.

Griffith dispatched his attorney to demand that Mrs. Gross retract her “smear campaign” attacks against him. When this failed, a libel and slander suit against her summarily followed.

Griffith’s lawsuit documented September 2003 as the estimated start of Mrs. Gross’s smear campaign.

This is how the SunPost reported it in June 2004:

With dozens of residents and business owners present, Jane Gross…has proclaimed repeatedly before city officials that Griffith’s Club Madonna perpetuates prostitution on Washington Avenue, is represented by a despicable website, misleads patrons with false advertising, and that the venue is a liability for children attending school in the area.

‘I don’t know what kind of tour Leroy gave you guys, but the website virtual tour is kind of like a gynecological/rectal exam,’ [she] stated in an e-mail to…commissioners.

Gross had also attributed Washington Avenue’s prostitution problems to Madonna because ‘horny a guys come and go all day.’”

The paper reported that Griffith was seeking a minimum of $15,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

 Responding to her branding him a tax cheat, Griffith told the paper that while he had a tax case then pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, it had nothing to do with underreporting his taxes. Rather, it was about a property depreciation issue.

I’m mystified by her hostility, he added.

I don’t know why Jane started spreading lies and rumors. The only time I’ve ever seen her was at City Commission meetings when she was protesting my license application. I’ve never done anything to hurt her.”

Months later, in November 2004, another SunPost article, repeating Gross’s allegations about the club’s website resembling a “gynecological/rectal exam” found the site rather tame and not at all vulgar as she alleged:

Extensive research by SunPost revealed that, indeed, not many bare breasts were to be found on Club Madonna’s website and that the content was no more or less provocative than one might see in Ocean Drive magazine or any other glossy magazine that circulates on Miami Beach.”

Once both parties got to court and Gross’s attorney produced pages of photographs of nude women purportedly taken from off the club’s website, Griffith’s side demonstrated that the photos were not from off his site but rather from off paid-subscription sites that had variations of his club’s name in their site names, but which were not affiliated with either Griffith or his club.

A notarized statement from the Fort Lauderdale webhoster of those sites confirms that the sites were not associated with Club Madonna and that Griffith was unaware of their pornographic content.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST – OR NOT?

Griffith has long suspected an ulterior motive behind the Grosses’s opposition to him getting a liquor license: they have supposedly profited from a competing night club that is allowed to sell liquor.

Whether or not that was the couple’s motive, there is truth in the fact that they did profit from such a club. And not just a club, but a liquor store to boot.

A 2005 campaign finance filing with the city clerk’s office shows that Saul, seeking reelection to the Commission that year, declared a handful of limited partnerships in which he had a controlling interest. One, named Grand Trine Partnership, owns the property at 929 Washington.

The once popular Club B.E.D. wined and dined patrons at that address from 1999 to its 2010 closure.

In the same paperwork, Gross declared that Grand Trine also owned the property a few doors down at 915 Washington.

That business? MB Two Liquor Store, which is still in operation.

You’d think this might constitute a conflict of interest and that Saul would have recused himself from the Madonna matter altogether. Indeed, a 2009 county ethics commission “letter of instruction” to the Beach Commission would later remind Gross and his fellow commissioners of the clause in their own code of ethics that stipulates that “no person…shall vote on or participate in any way in any matter presented to the [Commission]…who would or might, directly or indirectly, profit or be enhanced” by a Commission act.

It must not have constituted a conflict, in either his or City Hall’s eyes. For the purpose of remaining on ethical high ground, however, his Grand Trine connection to B.E.D. and the liquor store obviously should have forced his recusal on the Madonna matter.

NOT A CHURCH LADY”

As Saul’s term-limited stint on the Commission ebbed to its end in 2009, Jane filed to run for the seat that January. It would have been a rare, if not unprecedented, feat in city politics: a commish’s spouse winning a seat on the dais.

She was a candidate for all of three weeks before withdrawing from the race later that month.

In that span, she collected an impressive $8,750 in campaign contributions, all of which she returned to contributors after quitting the race.

One of those contributions was a $500 check from Grand Trine, her husband’s partnership.

In other words, the same Jane Gross who earlier warned the city that granting Griffith a license to sell alcohol would be like opening a “Pandora’s box,” was herself and through her short-lived campaign benefiting from the proceeds of alcohol sales from a club and liquor store that each leased property from her husband’s partnership.

One longtime local journo told me that no one should conclude that the Grosses opposed lifting the city’s liquor ban because they considered alcohol a gateway to evil: “They haven’t always been such tight-asses and Jane certainly is not a lifelong church lady by any stretch of the imagination.”

AN ECONOMIC ISSUE HERE”

Anybody can show up to a public meeting and give their two-cents-worth on the topic at hand, even offer baseless claims and less-than-accurate testimony. Nobody’s under oath.

And, if they’re lucky, maybe no one will be there to refute them.

Playing on the emotions of the audience in attendance – without letting those pesky things called facts get in the way – can work, too.

WSVN-TV owner Ed Ansin appeared at a North Bay Village zoning board meeting in 2011 and spoke out against a proposed gentlemen’s club that developer Scott Greenwald wanted to erect next to the station’s studio.

It’s extremely dangerous,” Ansin called the plan. “There are many instances, both with our station and elsewhere, of women in television being stalked, harassed, threatened. Having a strip club would certainly be a major problem in that regard.”

Evidently it was too trifling for Ansin to bother offering up any facts to substantiate his claims.

Nor did he feel any urge to disclose to the packed room that his comments just might have been colored by the fact that he had a horse in this race: it so happens that he was tied up in a lawsuit with Greenwald over property that WSVN once shared with its former neighbor, WIOD, and which WIOD later sold to Greenwald.

Serving as a dutiful backup cheerleader for her boss, WSVN anchor Belkys Nerey crossed the ethical bounds of journalism and violated professional neutrality by addressing the same board meeting and echoing Ansin’s specious claims: “There are women coming in at 1, 2, 3 in the morning…and if you get men, drinking, possibly drugs, who knows? That might equal violence.”

Like her boss, Nerey tossed her journalism credentials to the wind and didn’t bother to offer any facts and figures to substantiate her claims.

In the future, Belkys, and for as long as you remain an objective reporter, would you just stick to reading the news and keep your personal views to yourself?

Proving that there are people who can show up at a public hearing and stick to just the facts, ma’am, without veering into exaggeration or embellishment is the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant Association’s David Kelsey. Addressing the Miami Beach Commission at a 2009 meeting, he said the Madonna matter was, for him, an issue about tourism, not morality:

Our principal draws are the beach and our nightlife. Convention people are in their conventions during the day, so nightlife is the most important thing to them. They generally don’t bring their families, they come alone.

Strip clubs have been popular for many decades. We have our principal competitors for convention business in Fort Lauderdale and in Orlando – both of them have many clubs.

Most people think that there is alcohol [at Madonna]. Most of the people who live here don’t go to the club. They don’t go to any of our clubs. But some do, and certainly our visitors do. And that’s what’s put us on the map.

We have $100 million or so invested in the convention center. We still need conventions to make the convention center work. And this is one of the simple attractions that could be utilized to help bring in more convention business.

And what do we know about these conventions? They do, really, two things: they fill up the large hotels because they like to book lots of rooms for their people, to have them in the same place, and they go out to restaurants, especially on Lincoln Road.

So there’s an economic issue here,…but it is a real issue. We need business and we think that having alcohol at Madonna is nothing more than what people expect it to be or expect us to have.

It just seems very foolish to me to deny Madonna the right to serve a drink, and I don’t really fully understand the reasons to oppose it.”

LOOK AT WHAT WE’RE DOING”

Club Madonna opponents have been quick and ready to tout all kinds of studies, from sociologists and other experts, to lend credence to their fears of what demons liquor and lap dancing might introduce to a community. They’ve relied on such questionable evidence before, every time Griffith’s proposal has come before the City Commission, and can be expected to to do so again, if and when his proposal returns to City Hall.

Scott Bergthold is a Chattanooga, Tenn., lawyer who has made lots of money hiring himself out to municipalities all around the country who may be considering drafting ordinances to crack down on the adult businesses in their back yards.

Bergthold even memo’ed assistant city attorney Gary Held in November 2010, three days before the Commission was slated to again consider Griffith’s proposal. Hired as a consultant to help the Beach city attorney’s office to “understand what the issues of the proposed amendment” would mean for the city, Bergthold provided a disc containing documents, reports, and studies that city attorneys could use in their arguments.

Daniel Aaronson, Griffith’s attorney at that 2010 Commission meeting, refuted Held’s presentation, saying that several of the reports that Bergthold uses are outdated or have been discredited by courts.

Like Bergthold, Aaronson, a First Amendment attorney based in Fort Lauderdale, has extensive experience with the adult entertainment industry. He defends it. He has won cases on behalf of clients around the state, including a 2003 Manatee County case in which he successfully argued for a strip club’s right to serve drinks, and a 2006 Daytona Beach federal case that decided that an alcohol ban – identical to Miami Beach’s – violated a club’s constitutional right to free speech.

Aaronson told the Sun Sentinel in 2006 that “no legitimate justification” exists for some of the bans that localities impose. “It’s a great political thing for people in power to say, ‘look at what we’re doing’.”

Raising the specter of prostitution, drug use, and crime is a line of attack often deployed by Madonna’s foes.

But crime stats are pretty stubborn things to try to argue against. As one example, the MBPD’s own numbers, provided to the City Commission in 2004, showed that of 1,400 incidents reported in the 1500 block of Washington in 2003, just 38 (less than 3%) were attributable to Madonna. And none of those were deemed serious by the department.

In one incident, noted in a 2004 SunPost story, a rowdy crew of partying Broward County Sheriff deputies became incensed because Griffith had no booze to offer them.

I had to call the Miami Beach police,” Griffith told the paper, “to get the police out of my club.”

I HAVE VIDEOTAPES”

One of Griffith’s foes, frequently at the mic to put in his say every time the issue comes before the Commission, left some in the chamber giggling and guffawing at the 2004 meeting when he attempted to define what purpose a lap dance serves.

If you don’t know what lap dancing is about,” octogenarian resident Morris Sunshine told commissioners, “I have two videotapes which I’d be pleased to leave with you.”

That is how I discovered it,” Sunshine admitted with a straight face. Then he launched into a sociological explanation – as if somehow an authority on the subject – of a dance form he supposedly knew nothing about until his video introduction to it:

The issue is not and never has been nudity. The issue is the sale of sexual favors via lap dancing. The sole purpose of lap dancing is to bring the customer to the highest possible level of sexual arousal. The consumption of alcohol is designed to kick up the arousal process.”

There you go. The lap dance, according to Morry.

Finally, he warned that allowing liquor to flow at Madonna would “release a gang every night of intoxicated young men in a state of arousal which can only make them ready for anything and…should give a huge boost to the local prostitution market.”
Morry didn’t say whether he had any videos to support that conjecture.

A COCKTAIL WITH YOUR LAP DANCE”

An email from Mrs. Gross to commissioners prior to their November 2010 meeting read like a laundry list of reasons for why they should vote it down. It repeated arguments she had used at past hearings:

We are a small city of 80,000. We have no Home Depot, no Bloomingdales….We need to drive over the causeway for some things. A cocktail with your lap dance should remain one of them.”

Gross claimed “it took Mayor [Rudolph] Giuliani 8 years…to finally clean up Times Square.”

Wrong. The transformation of the NYC landmark, according to The New York Times, actually began decades before Giuliani, beginning with Mayor Edward Koch in 1980 and continuing through David Dinkins‘s term.

Gross: “Reduced property values, increase in street crimes.”

Aaronson, addressing the Commission the year before, in 2009: “There are studies from all over the country and they come to the conclusion: property values do not go down and crime does not go up.”

Gross: “Why should Club Madonna get the privilege and not other nightclubs? Granting a monopoly is just bad municipal policy.”

Aaronson, to the Commission in 2009: “There is a monopoly but we did not create it. [The city's] zoning laws have created a monopoly for Club Madonna. There are virtually no places on Miami Beach in which adult entertainment can open up….[T]he monopoly situation is created because of how thin Miami Beach is and how long it is, how many schools you have, how many residential areas, and things like that.”

WHERE WAS THE STINK BOMB?

Whatever else she may be, Jane Gross has been just as persistent about denying Griffith his ordinance reform as he has been about passing it. She has rarely missed an opportunity to show up and speak her mind whenever the matter has come up at City Hall over the last decade.

Perhaps if she had been less preoccupied with it and more preoccupied with the goings-on at the Miami Beach Community Health Center during that time, her motives for caring about the community’s best interests could be taken more seriously and stand her in better stead with taxpayers.

 For it was last month, in a Miami federal courtroom, that Kathryn Abbate, the clinic’s former CEO, stood remorsefully before Judge Marcia Cooke and was handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for having used the non-profit health center for under-served, indigent patients as her personal piggy bank.

From 2007 to 2012 – half of her tenure there – Abbate regularly stole (according to U.S. Attorney for Miami Wifredo A. Ferrer) “from the most vulnerable among us – the sick, the elderly and the poor,” collecting unauthorized compensation in the millions and writing 837 unauthorized checks to herself so she could traipse off to the Seminole Hard Rock and play the slots, support a drug habit, pay off politicians, and settle – under the table – sexual harassment allegations made against a clinic employee.

The grand take from her looting spree? Nearly $7 million of taxpayer-subsidized funds.

The lie she employed was that the disbursements were for “community development.”

Oh, Abbate was developing something, all right. Her personal wealth.

How could such a theft have gone on for as long as it did without the center’s board of directors not discovering it or becoming the least bit suspicious?

How could such an enormous array of checks – the largest, a whopping $356,000 one written in June of last year – have not let off a stink bomb to alert the fifteen who comprise the board overseeing the center?

Yes, madam chairperson. How is it that you and your board managed to miss such a large-scale embezzlement – perhaps the most massive one ever in Miami Beach?

I’m talking to you, Mrs. Gross.

SMACKED DOWN, BUT HE KEEPS GETTING UP

Griffith’s tenacity has survived all that his opponents have tossed at him in the last decade. All he has ever wanted is a fair hearing, he says, and the chance to have a competitively fair playing field with other city night clubs.

A one-year trial period. That’s what this was all about. The city would have granted him a trial period in which to legally sell alcohol at Madonna, at the end of which the city would have assessed, on the basis of studies and results, where to go from there.

 That was the proposal on the table in 2003 and it was what Deede Weithorn boldly wanted to bring back to the Commission in April 2012 before Madonna opponents scared her off of it and she withdrew it from consideration.

And so a decade-long feud continues, with no end in sight.

But Griffith remains robustly optimistic. After being smacked down time after time, he keeps getting up from the mat, hopeful that one day in the not-too-distant future, Club Madonna liquor will at long last flow.

And with the city’s legal blessing.

There is, unfortunately, no prohibition on otherwise good, upstanding people – convinced they’re defending morality, children, lawfulness, mom, baseball, apple pie, and all that other good stuff – from resorting to specious arguments and assertions – some even bordering on exaggeration or falsehood – to push their points and agendas.

Alas, there is also no prohibition on our public officials listening to such arguments and assertions, and falling hook, line, and sinker for such claptrap, then crimping a local businessman’s rights – and the rights of us all – on the basis of such misleading piffle.

Oh, if only there were. Now there’s some prohibitions I could drink to. Cheers!

PART TWO: What city officials did – behind closed doors – to try to thwart Griffith constituted nothing less than a crime that should have cost several their offices and purchased them one-way tickets to the Miami-Dade County Jail. Read it here.

The author is an independent columnist. The opinions expressed in this column are his own and not those of the publication or its editors and owners.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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