Miracle on 29th Street

Owners of the new club Timba, which features Cuban bands, can't get a permit from the city. Hmmm.

Rhodes and his partners, however, were extremely unrelaxed. The night was unfolding tremendously, but there were two tremendous omissions: a business permit and a liquor license. They feared cops or inspectors would arrive at any moment, but miraculously none did.

"It's a total mystery to me why they decided to just chill out," Rhodes remarks. "I think we called their bluff or something, and they knew they were walking on thin ice and they didn't have the legal justification to keep us out of the [permit] process."

It was an expensive miracle, though. Rhodes claims they lost about $5000 that night after the band, security guards, and sound engineers were paid. The benefit was a bust, but Rhodes pledged $2500 for the Miami Light Project's annual fundraiser, which will be held this May.

The Timba partners grew more and more vexed about the permit problem. Was it a conspiracy aimed at putting the kibosh on club owners cavorting with Cuban bands, they wondered?

Two weeks later, on February 12, free liquor flowed again while a few dozen patrons listened to the Chirino Sisters and Barracuda. That event was billed as a benefit for Wee Care, a wildlife rescue center in South Miami-Dade. The nonprofit group took away only $30. The next night Cancio had booked La Charanga to perform again. This time Carrasquillo dropped by before the show and warned the owners not to charge for admission or booze. The Timba partners complied. About $5000 worth of alcohol was given away, Rhodes estimates.

"There's no question in my mind that they were going to sell liquor without a license," Carrasquillo grouses. "I'm here to enforce city codes and that's about it." Finally, last week Carrasquillo approved a permit for the production facility, after Timba's owners agreed to separately apply for the cafe and bar permits. Carrasquillo says he will sign that application only when Timba has a kitchen, tables for 200 people, and a liquor license from the state, as required by city law.

Meanwhile Timba's cash flow is drying up almost as fast as its booze supply. "All of the liquor that we had to get this place going is gone," Martinez moans. "We gave it all away. The cooler's empty. We have to start again. This is very sad."

But enthusiasm for a haute spot on lowly Biscayne Boulevard remains high, especially among the local cops, many of whom are Timba-boosters. "We've tried to redirect people's energies toward positive things in this area," says Lt. Mario Garcia, a City of Miami police commander in the Wynwood/Edgewater district. "I would like to see a successful business here because it brings life into the neighborhood." Fellow officer William Lopez is hip on Timba, too. "I like this layout," he comments, surveying Timba's sofa-laden first floor. "You can sit down and talk to somebody and not have to shout over the music. It reminds me of New York."


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