Letters from the Issue of December 6, 2001

Two Views from Club Space

Club Space from the Outside Looking In
It was nasty and unjustified, but at least we weren't beaten by brutes with badges: Let me congratulate Rebecca Wakefield on her excellent article "Thump, Thump, Thump:No, That's Not the DJ You've Been Hearing Outside Club Space" (November 29). It was a great public service to us all.

About a year ago I was celebrating my birthday with a cocktail party in my apartment. I was very lucky to have friends from as far away as New York and Spain who had come to Miami to join me for the party. I had made arrangements to have all my guests included on the Club Space guest list so that at a certain time we could all move there and stop disturbing my neighbors. (I live in a condo.) At about 2:30 in the morning, we all got into different cabs and headed for Space.

The group in the first cab arrived and got in without a problem. I arrived in the second cab and, as the host, felt I should wait and gather everyone to make sure we all got in okay. Two more cabs arrived. We were about ten people by then, ladies and men. There was hardly anyone waiting outside to get in, as it was still early for Space. A police officer approached us and told us to get in line. I explained that we were on the guest list and we were just waiting for one more cab to arrive. He said there was no guest list, to which I responded there had to be because four people from my party who had arrived just minutes earlier had gone straight in. Up to this moment I don't recall the exchange with the officer to be particularly harsh or tense. But then pandemonium broke out. Another officer approached us and shouted that I should shut up and get in line if I wanted to get in, since there was no guest list.

I am Spanish. I had been living in Miami for only one year at that time, and this was my first encounter with a police officer. Needless to say I was shocked speechless. I simply did not know what to do or say. One of my friends, an attorney living in New York who was visiting for the weekend, came forward and said in a very polite way to the officer that he was an attorney and that I had a right to free speech. The officers then flipped completely. They grabbed my friend's arm, twisted it behind his back, handcuffed him, and said, "You are an attorney? Well, you're going to need an attorney now!" And they took him to the police car.

Another of my friends from Spain, shocked by what he was seeing, also stepped forward, and as he moved forward he tripped over the curb and almost stumbled. An officer came up and said, "You're drunk!" grabbed him by the arm, put his arms behind his back, handcuffed him, and took him to the police car. Most of my friends retreated. I was standing there in shock seeing how a great evening was being ruined and witnessing something that until that day I thought only happened on television. One of the officers, who was more calm and was of Hispanic origin, came toward me and said in a low voice, in Spanish: "Iros de aquí que estos están muy calientes," which you could take to mean: "Get out of here. These guys are enraged."

I felt awful and didn't know what to do. These were my friends, my guests, they were visitors from out of town, and they sat in the back of a police car with their hands cuffed, probably just as puzzled as I.

I decided to approach the officer who had led the entire thing. With the best possible manners and charm I could produce (I was brought up in England and believe me, I am good at faking politeness), I explained that one of the guys in the car was a Spanish citizen and I needed to know what the charges were so I could notify the consulate. The response I got was: "Get the fuck out of here or you'll be next!"

I don't believe in talking to animals, so I turned and walked toward my friends, who had gathered a couple of blocks away, by the Howard Johnson. Most of them decided the party was over and went home. I stayed with the two, trying to figure out what to do. When we thought things had calmed down, one of my friends, who is in normal circumstances a very funny and charming guy, decided to approach the police and try to talk some sense into them. He talked to them for a long while. I can't tell you what he said, but I think he even managed to make them laugh. After a while he came back and told me that they would release our friends if they signed a declaration about what had happened and we got out of there. In view of the circumstances, we thought that was a good deal.

The officers still made us wait about 45 minutes. To make things worse, it began to rain! They drew up a declaration and passed it to our detained friends to read and sign. I did not read it, but from what they said, it stated that we had gathered a mob outside Club Space and were trying to force our way in, that we had threatened the officers and disobeyed orders. Of course they just signed and got out of there and we went home. The party was definitely over, except for the first group that arrived. They were happily enjoying themselves inside the club, thinking we were lost on one of its many dance floors, totally unaware of what had gone on outside.

My friend from New York later filed a complaint with the Miami Police Department. He provided my name as witness. A couple of weeks later, after returning from a long business trip to Latin America, I had a call on my answering machine from an internal-affairs officer regarding the event. The message was less than a week old. I phoned immediately to give my account, only to be told that the investigation was over and the file was closed.

In the light of Ms. Wakefield's article and the accounts in it, I consider ourselves pretty lucky. After all, we had no injuries, no blood, no jail time, and no criminal charges. But we certainly had the rudeness, violence, and humiliation, which was totally uncalled for. Also, like your interviewees, I now have a fear and mistrust of police officers in Miami.

I was appalled by Sgt. Gene Kowalski's reference to his men having pulled out bodies at the World Trade Center catastrophe. The women and men who have put their lives in danger by assisting in the rescue have earned our respect and admiration for their brave actions. The women and men who throw insults, punches, kicks, and handcuffs outside a nightclub deserve neither respect nor admiration.

I am grateful for your article, which I'll be sending to my friends in Spain and New York so they'll realize they suffered from just a few rotten apples and that the whole of Miami is not like that. Also, with recent changes approved by voters, I will slowly start rebuilding my confidence in the Miami Police Department and its officers.

Javier Marquina
Miami

Club Space from the Inside Looking Out
It was nasty and unjustified, but what do you expect from a flaky free weekly? Rebecca Wakefield's article "Thump, Thump, Thump" was informative, but it contained various slanderous and degrading remarks. The following excerpts have nothing to do with the police or their alleged aggressive behavior:

•"They've navigated the maze of empty one-way streets, found a parking spot, paid a petty extortionist -- either parking attendant or entrepreneurial homeless person -- to “watch' their vehicle."

•"Its allure among young urbanites with the cash for nonstop music, alcohol, and drugs (and later, maybe, for posh restaurants and apartments) is what municipal planners and schemers had in mind last year when they created an entertainment district saturated with 24-hour liquor licenses within walking distance of downtown's two sports arenas."

•"And you have 2 have a multiple roll night to make it till 10am. SPACE ROCKS."

Management, staff, and patrons are baffled by how such an article could be published, considering the relationship we have had with New Times and the amount of business we have shared -- more than $100,000 in advertising one year and approximately half a million dollars over a seven-year period. These remarks have nothing to do with the police. They have no relation to their alleged aggressive behavior. Nor do they add any value to the story. These remarks do, however, imply that unless you pay some extortionist or a homeless person, you won't be able to park. They also imply that everyone who dances until ten in the morning must take "two rolls," and that all patrons are into "nonstop music, alcohol, and drugs."

I understand it is New Times's duty to create awareness in the public. On the other hand, I believe the article was a direct attack on Club Space, an attempt to tarnish an otherwise spotless reputation with the public. This type of slander and false interpretation isn't something new for New Times. For as long as I can remember, negative and controversial stories have graced the front cover. Our city's politicians, business owners, and influential individuals are constantly suffering from articles that contain little or no foundation as a result of poor investigation and unreliable sources. This particular article states that "Space co-owner Luis Puig is said to be buying ... the currently closed Fuel," when that venue has been under new ownership for the last three months and is currently operating as The Living Room.

Instead of focusing on the negative things in our community, maybe New Times could write something positive to alleviate some of the turmoil recently caused by the terrorist acts of September 11. Did you know that Club Space had a fundraiser and donated $23,500 to Operation Helping Hands and to the police officers and firefighters' families affected by the terrorist attacks? Did you know that the police officers who worked off-duty went to Ground Zero in New York to help out? Did you know that as a result of Club Space's success, more than 300 jobs have been created? Did you know Club Space has revolutionized the quality of nightlife in the U.S.? Did you know that property values within a two-mile radius have doubled and tripled since we opened? These are the things that are not only worth mentioning, they should be highlighted in stories.

Until we receive a dignified and just response as to why this story contained such blasphemous remarks, Club Space, Club 609, Club Spin, and our associated companies will cease all advertising in New Times.

Emi Guerra, marketing and PR director
Club Space
Miami

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