City Commission Might Close House Nightclub, Owner Claims Rivals Are Behind "Witch-Hunt"
An image from Lowe's Facebook page protesting today's hearing.
UPDATE: City commissioners postponed a decision on the club for another six months. Lowe said he is relieved, but only temporarily. "I don't believe the war is over," he said.
The fate of Wynwood's only nightclub could come down to a debate over Grandpa's wrinkled nutsack. Let me explain. This morning, city commissioners will consider whether to shutter House Nightclub. The upscale spot at 1915 NW Miami Ct. is the brainchild of Mark Lowe. House opened only five months ago after Lowe fought for years to obtain the proper permits.
Now, however, the city is considering closing House amid a flood of mysterious complaints. Lowe says he is being sabotaged by his downtown rivals.
"This is such a witch-hunt," Lowe says. "This club is my soul. It's my business. I'm just asking to be left alone."
The saga dates back to last fall, when Lowe applied for a liquor license.
Lowe asked for a 5 a.m. license (the latest allowed outside of the 24-hour downtown entertainment district), but was met with opposition from downtown club owners.
Michael Slyder, co-owner of downtown 24-hour club Mekka and president of the Miami Entertainment District Association (MEDA), wrote to Planning and Zoning officials to appeal House's 5 a.m. license.
"This proposed bar does not meet the requirements of a Supper Club," Slyder wrote in October. In another email sent to an assistant for Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Slyder asked to meet to discuss House.
Ultimately, Sarnoff and his fellow commissioners awarded House a less-lucrative, 4 a.m. license. But they also agreed to rehear the club's request for a 5 a.m. license a year later.
A year has now passed, but rather than consider a 5 a.m. license, commissioners are thinking about closing the club instead.
Lowe says things started going sour last month, just as House's business was beginning to boom.
"MEDA had a meeting last month about stopping House, since we were doing so well," he says. "All of a sudden we started getting noise complaints. We are literally in a no man's zone. We are across from a concrete factory. And our nearest neighbor is a half-mile away. It's unbelievable."
City inspectors gave the club one warning about the noise, Lowe says, but never issued a ticket. Yet House was also inundated with anonymous email complaints, some of which were also sent to local media and city commissioners.
"As a concerned landlord, you should know that House Night Club does not serve food, which may be in violation of its liquor license, leading to possible loss of license and future inability to lease the property as a venue," reads an anonymous Sept. 26 email sent to Lowe's landlord. "We do not believe that the building even has a kitchen despite a menu posted online by House."
House's menu is a hotly contested topic, however. Under the terms of its 4 a.m. supper-club liquor license, House must provide prepared food.
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The club's website lists a dozen items with outrageous names, such as "Mommy swallows," "skanky lobster," "jizz finale," "herpes pudding," "clymidia casserole," and -- of course -- "Grandpa's wrinkled nutsack."
"We had to do something to set up a license," Lowe admits. "I wanted a farcical menu that no one would take seriously." He says House serves items like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to fulfill its supper-club license.
Courtesy of House
"We do what we are required: light appetizers, cold food," he says. "Absolutely you can order it, and absolutely people order it every night."
Lowe claims his downtown competitors are behind the anonymous emails.
New Times sent several emails to the anonymous complainants, but they refused to identify themselves or show a reporter that they do, in fact, live in the neighborhood.
"Our identity as concerned citizens is no matter," the complainant replied. "We are tied to no clubs in Miami. We are concerned, local residents who honestly believe that House Nightclub is not abiding by the terms of a Supper Club license."
Michael Slyder did not return half a dozen requests for comment. In the past, however, he has admitted to calling cops on his competitors. (He has also donated money to Marc Sarnoff's campaigns.)
Lowe says snitching on rivals is par for the course in the nightclub industry but claims the complaints against him are baseless.
"If these were valid complaints, it would be a different story," he says. "But there is nothing legitimate about this. We have no neighbors. Their entire intent is to close us before the season starts [in December]."
Whoever is behind the complaints, city commissioners are clearly taking them seriously. Earlier this week, Lowe was notified that the committee would indeed revisit his supper-club license. But instead of considering whether to extend it to 5 a.m., commissioners this morning are weighing whether to strip House of its license altogether.
"We've invested time and money in an area that was nothing," Lowe says. "To now be dragged in front of the commission with no violations... it's ridiculous."
Lowe warns he won't lose his club without a fight, however.
"You know what then, City of Miami? You're responsible for all the time and money involved in us starting up," he says. "I'm filing a lawsuit."
*Technically, House is half a block south of Wynwood. This puts it in the OMNI district.
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