The Education of Shawn Lewis

Lesson #1: Hard work and an aptitude for computers can make a young man rich. Lesson #2: Some rich young men take to South Beach like fish to water. Lesson #3: South Beach is the shark. A young man with money is the bait.

But these incidents haven't soured Lewis on the Beach. In fact the same month he settled his criminal case, he closed on his North Bay Road mansion. But he never quite got the hang of just relaxing. Rather, he turned his late-night forays into a job, scouting clubs to buy.

In the fall of 1999, Lewis formed two companies, NSU and Joe Black Productions, hiring friends he thought knew their way around the nightlife scene and partnering with a Boston pal, Paul Caputo. The companies leased spaces with liquor licenses, starting with the former Paciello lounge Risk, most recently known as Zen. Lewis renamed the place G-Spot. To many observers the name's overt sexual reference was an indication of the nightclub neophyte's vulgar tastes. Lewis would later tell Miami Metro magazine that he regretted the moniker. "G-Spot was an experiment to learn about the market," he told the article's author, scene-chronicler John Buchanan. "It was put together in about twelve days."

But Lewis certainly didn't talk like a neophyte. He boasted repeatedly that he was going to dominate business on the Beach and told Buchanan that two major nightclubs, Level and crobar, were a fad. Both, he predicted, would be gone by next season.

"Shawn came here, and his most obvious personality trait was that he didn't give a damn. He surrounded himself with his own friends from Boston, and he said what was on his mind," says Buchanan. "And he made some people mad. He didn't get to know the power structure. Pretty soon he found out South Beach is a neighborhood, and the gossip and backbiting is fierce."

G-Spot foundered, drawing a crowd of young kids. The elite partiers, including a core three dozen of the most wealthy patrons the clubs rely on to spend thousands of dollars a night on VIP tables and champagne, steered clear. In May 2000 Lewis closed it.

"He thought he could become us by buying up all the property," sniffs one nightclub proprietor. "But you've got to be reputable and hip. The nightclub industry is about personality. You do not attract society, the A crowd, with vulgarity. He just hasn't earned any respect yet."

The failure hit Lewis hard, but he had no intentions of retreating from South Florida. By this time he had met Liz Romero.


Lewis claims to have high standards for his love life. His role models are his grandparents, married more than 50 years until his grandfather's death earlier this year. "I take a look at that relationship, and through thick and thin they stuck together," he says. "No matter how hard the problems, they weathered them together." But the circles in which Lewis was traveling, the flash and sizzle of South Beach, did not necessarily make a good hunting ground for a soulmate. And then there's the warping effect money can have when decent people do meet.

Romero, a petite, buxom Cuban raised in Hialeah, had flitted around the fringes of the fabulous set here for years. In 1995, at age 21, she was Miss Hawaiian Tropic. She modeled provocative bikinis on the Website latinsensations.com and even dreamed of being a Playboy model. In 1999 she was selected as a Dolphins cheerleader, her pert looks enhanced by years of ballet and jazz dance lessons. But all her attempts to penetrate the glamour world were extracurricular, she maintains, secondary to her schooling. She has an associate's degree and is pursuing a bachelor's while working as a dental hygienist. Four years ago she bought her own condo on Miami Beach's West Avenue, of which she is very proud.

Romero met Lewis through some friends on an idle Sunday afternoon in early February at the Nikki Beach Club, the sandy playpen at the foot of Ocean Drive where club people like to recover from their all-night excursions. Though they were interested in each other, it took awhile to connect. "We played phone tag for two or three weeks," Romero recalls. Finally on February 22 they went on a date -- to play miniature golf and eat dinner at Macaluso's.

Things went well at the golf course, and their romance took off. The day after their first date, Lewis flew Romero to Cancún for three days. On the evening they returned, Lewis proposed. Romero gasped and said yes. "I was swept away," she recounts. "It was crazy, romantic, a whirlwind. And marriage is definitely something I want." That night Lewis pulled up to a jewelry store on Ocean Drive and bought a six-carat diamond ring worth an estimated $30,000. (Because of a nondisclosure agreement that prevents her from discussing details surrounding the wedding, friends had to describe the ring to New Times.)

Those who know Romero describe her as a levelheaded women who is always involved in serious relationships. Prior to meeting Lewis, she had been in a four-year relationship, and she has been married once before, to a Miami police officer. Even Lewis's friends down from Boston say she seemed genuine. "I can tell a phony, and I thought she was a pretty decent kid," says former colleague Joseph Benson. "She didn't seem like a gold digger. But who knows what happens behind closed doors."

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