By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
The Oceanside Promenade seems like your average Ocean Drive hot spot. Friday and Saturday nights, the U-shape courtyard is choked with a drinkin'-and-dancin' throng grooving to the salsa band on the south stage and tossing back booze.
But one former employee of that Miami Beach bar alleges all is not as tropically copacetic as it appears. Bartender Eric Holmes contends the management, which also operates the Adrian Hotel to the north and an apartment building to the south, discriminated against him. The root of their bias, he asserts, is his national origin: He's not Romanian.
Holmes has complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. He has also filed a pure bill of discovery (an official request for documents) with the Eleventh Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. The bill alleges management of Adrian Art Deco Rivera Hotels and Restaurants, Inc. jerked him around not only because of where he wasn't born, but also because he refused to accept money to marry a Romanian.
Three sources contacted by New Times supported Holmes's claim that hotel administrators, mostly Romanian natives, have offered employees money to wed Romanians. The reason: to help them obtain legal immigration status and remain in the United States. If the allegation is true, this would constitute a violation of federal immigration laws.
Neither owners nor management of the Adrian would comment about the claims. David Pollack, an attorney for the hotel, called them "false and completely without merit," but declined to speak about specifics. Pollack says he has collected statements from many employees at the hotel that "categorically refute the allegations in this complaint."
Marriage is often the best route to permanent residency for immigrants. A nonresident who marries an American citizen or permanent resident must jump through several procedural hoops before receiving status. First, there's plenty of paperwork. Then the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requires at least one in-person interview to determine whether the marriage is legitimate. If INS blesses the union after two years, the nonresident gets a green card, which signifies permanent residency
Although it is illegal to marry someone solely for the purpose of securing residency in the United States, it is a common practice. The allegations made in Holmes's case differ from the norm in one important way: They involve a workplace rather than family or friends.
One officer of the corporation that owns the Adrian complex is Adrian Alexandru, a Romanian-born veterinarian from New York City who began buying Miami Beach real estate in the late Eighties. Alexandru is the only corporate official listed in state records for Adrian Art Deco Rivera Hotels and Restaurants, Inc. He is not named in Holmes's bill. The only individual cited is Adrian Hapca, a Romanian-born permanent resident of the United States who was Holmes's immediate superior.
Holmes alleges that Hapca "solicited the plaintiff to marry one or more Romanian individuals in exchange for valuable consideration, so that these individuals could obtain immigration status permitting them to remain in the United States and/or remain employed by the Adrian Hotels."
The bill also alleges that Hapca and others have offered "valuable consideration" to other American citizens and legal residents among their employees in exchange for marrying Romanian immigrants.
Holmes says he refused the invitation.
For the transgressions of not being Romanian and being unwilling to marry one, Holmes charges, his bosses changed his bartending schedule from weekend nights to slower shifts. In mid-January, after he filed court papers, Holmes was dismissed.
Holmes would not agree to be interviewed. His attorney, Loring Spolter of Fort Lauderdale, claims to have taken written statements from several current and former employees of Adrian Hotels. Spolter won't say how many, only that "numerous people have confirmed in writing the claims Eric presented in his court pleadings."
Susan Albright, another former Oceanside Promenade bartender, told New Times she backs Holmes and says she knows at least two women who were asked to wed Romanian men. The 44-year-old Albright, who now works at Sundays on the Bay, a Key Biscayne restaurant, says she was not similarly propositioned. "I'm already married," she notes.
Eleanor Rhodenizer, age 55, also confirms both of Holmes's allegations. Until recently she was an employee of the Adrian, a business tenant in the Oceanside Promenade, and a resident of the rental apartments next door. She claims at least one other person besides Holmes was offered money to marry a Romanian. No one approached her, though. "I'm Canadian, so I'm no good to 'em," Rhodenizer chuckles.
One other source, who asked not to be identified, also confirms Holmes's allegations.
Yet David Pollack, the hotel's attorney, says he has presented evidence debunking Holmes's charges to the EEOC and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Moreover, Pollack last month filed a motion to quash the bill of discovery in circuit court. His motion asserts that under state law, Holmes has no right to file any court action until 180 days after complaining to the EEOC and/or the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
Holmes's court case is set for a hearing on February 19.