Leroy Griffith makes his opinion abundantly clear as he laughs bitterly into the telephone: He really couldn't give a shit who picks up an open seat on the Miami Beach City Commission next fall — as long as it's not the woman who kept the champagne out of his strip club.
"We're going to start a campaign fund for anyone but Jane Gross. Honestly, I don't care who runs against her," Griffith says. "We'll give anyone money to beat her."
Griffith's Club Madonna, SoBe's only nudie bar, is a dry patch in a beach full of flowing alcohol, in large part because of Gross, an activist and the wife of Commissioner Saul Gross. The couple actively campaigned against Griffith's bid for a liquor license in 2004 — and when the commission voted against granting one, Madonna's owner sued Jane Gross for libel.
Gross recently announced she's running for her husband's seat when he's forced out by term limits next November.
Griffith settled his suit with Gross but later filed an ethics complaint against the city for allegedly offering to reconsider his liquor license if he dropped his legal cases and paid Gross's $30,000 attorney fees. On December 16, Griffith filed a new lawsuit in district court against six city officials — including Saul Gross — making the same allegations.
Jane Gross is not named in the latest suit, but Griffith questions why she believes she's qualified for city commission.
"Her whole claim to fame is denying me alcohol at my club," he says.
Gross laughs off the criticism, although she agrees with him on one point: "I just wish that I wasn't only known for this conflict with Leroy," she says. "But, that said, I'm not backing down."
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Miami Beach has no reason to grant Club Madonna a liquor license, Gross says. The city doesn't allow nude clubs to have alcohol — so "either you give him the monopoly, which is not good city policy, or you have people in nightclub business quite fairly asking why they can't have nudity too."
Gross, who sits on the boards of the Miami Beach Community Health Center and the Miami Design Preservation League, objects to being painted as a Puritan on the issue. "If people think I don't like nudity or alcohol, they're sorely misinformed," she laughs. "I was just out drinking with friends last night, and then I went to an event at the World Erotic Art Museum."
Gross says she's running for the seat on a number of issues, but Griffith believes there's only one she really cares about.
"I've been wondering all this time why Jane Gross was trying to keep me from getting a license, and now we know," he says. "She likes the publicity."