Blacker than Thou

When the Marlin Hotel canceled Louis Oliver's Friday-night soiree, it sent a mixed cultural message

The Marlin is "changing the atmosphere" of its Friday nights, Packer said, to a less crowded, more subdued and "loungy" feel. Replacing Oliver's Friday fete will be an ambient, electronica-based evening called Mosaic. Black parties, Packer says, will not be denied. The hotel will host performance-based events, such as open-mike poetry and hip-hop nights twice per week, with local spoken-word diva Rashida Bartley -- whose audience is mostly young and black -- on the bill for Wednesdays. The fact that the Marlin cancelled Oliver a week after Memorial Day is "just bad timing," Packer says. "It was coincidental," he claims. "We have been looking at repositioning the property as whole. So it's not based on any one particular event."

Other promoters and club owners say that Oliver had been looking for a larger venue for his weekly party before his Urban Fashion Week, anyway. Oliver admits he may have outgrown the Marlin space, which is basically a semicircular bar adjacent to the hotel lobby. Still, he was fond of the cozy setting, and credits it for some of his success there. (At press time, he hadn't named a new spot.) But regardless of the reason, ending the Marlin gig so close to Memorial Day sent a bitter message to black people who want to come out and party. "What it says is that no matter who you are and how much of a professional you may be, you can never run away from your blackness," spouts hip-hop producer and rapper Luther Campbell. "You are still considered black, and people still see black people as bad. Deep down, that's what it says."

The change at the Marlin is just one of many rumblings that have taken place in the wake of Memorial Day. Since then, nightclub owners and promoters have been meeting with city officials to define ways of better assessing when large crowds are coming to town. Club owners say the city needs to better "control" how it markets itself. The city administrators are saying the club owners should inform officials about parties. Regardless of who is responsible for Memorial Day, city staff and most of the club owners agree, there needs to be cooperation. "We need to assess what is right and wrong," Assistant City Manager Christina Cuervo told club owners at a special June 6 meeting. "Any one of us can drag us all down."

Goodbye cake: Former Dolphins safety Louis Oliver savors a bite of the sweet life at his final party at the Marlin, Twelfth and Collins
Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Goodbye cake: Former Dolphins safety Louis Oliver savors a bite of the sweet life at his final party at the Marlin, Twelfth and Collins


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The city will be seeking ways to enforce a 1999 ordinance that requires promoters to pay for licensing events with the city. The promoters have skirted compliance by being temporarily "hired" by the clubs. As club employees, the promoters are not required to license their parties. To address these issues, the city is forming a coalition of nightclub-industry owners and managers to advise Miami Beach about the machinations of the nightclub world. "Memorial Day was a catalyst," says attorney Steven Polisar, who represents several South Beach nightclubs. "Does it bring new accountability [to the clubs]? I think it does." He adds that club owners now must be selective about which events to host and take some responsibility for what goes on outside their clubs, too. "When you get this kind of publicity, you've got to watch what you do."

The effort to better communicate with the nightclubs is part of an overarching "Major Events Plan" that city manager Jorge Gonzalez has been developing since Memorial Day. On June 26 Gonzalez sent Mayor Neisen Kasdin and the Miami Beach City Commission a ten-page memorandum which outlined how police, code enforcement, public relations, and all other departments would coordinate during holidays and special events to prepare for potential crowds. Likened to the city's Hurricane and Emergency Management Plan, the new initiative relies on increased vigilance of hotel occupancy levels and nightclub promotions to better assess how to prepare on given weekends. The surveillance will begin as early as three months before a given event and culminate two weeks ahead of it. Police will be in contact with hotel security managers, and detectives will be surfing the Internet, looking for party postings. "The main issue that came across loud and clear after Memorial Day is that communication lines could be better," Gonzalez says. "We need to communicate more and sooner so that we can plan accordingly."

The effort comes as The Source Hip-Hop Music Awards, which promises to bring back the fast and furious hip-hop set August 17 through 20, looms on the horizon. City officials have been meeting with Source show producer David Mays and party promoters to work out a "control" plan. Miami Beach police have secured interlocal agreements with the Miami-Dade County and City of Miami police departments to provide extra help with expected traffic and crowds. Officials also are ironing out details with Fruit of Islam, a black Muslim security organization best known for guarding Louis Farrakhan, hired by Source to patrol the August 20 show.

Although that event is weeks away, the city kicked off its sprawling plan over the Fourth of July holiday. Though the week passed with few problems, police were ready, with standard "operations" scenarios for future special events and holidays. Beginning June 29 and extending through July 9, for example, the department has more than doubled its presence in the area between Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, and from Lincoln Road to Fifth Street. Thirty extra officers were assigned overtime shifts -- with most intersections in the area regularly manned by at least one patrol. The cost of the increased vigilance will be about $100,000.

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