Club Madonna Owner Sues Miami Beach Over Alleged Extortion Scheme

Miami Beach officials tried to extort $30,000 in legal fees out of a strip club owner in exchange for a liquor license -- so says Leroy Griffith, owner of Club Madonna. Griffith, whose club is the only nudie joint in SoBe, made his claims in a lawsuit filed against city officials last week in U.S. District Court.

Griffith has a long-standing feud with the city over its refusal to grant his strip club a liquor license. Griffith applied for a license in 2004, and when the city voted the proposal down, he sued Jane Gross, the wife of City Commissioner Saul Gross and an outspoken critic of his proposal, for slander. He also filed a separate lawsuit against the city, seeking to overturn their ordinance prohibiting liquor in strip clubs.

According to Griffith's latest suit, he accepted a settlement with

Gross in 2005 only after the city attorney told him that Miami Beach

wouldn't consider his application for a license until he dismissed his

case against the commissioner's wife. An assistant city attorney then

told Griffith that he also would need to pay all of Gross' $30,000 in

legal fees before the city would re-consider his application to serve

booze, according to Griffith's suit.

"By requiring Club Madonna or its owner to dismiss a lawsuit against

the wife of a sitting City Commissioner and demand that they pay

$30,000 in attorney's fees as a precondition to consideration of a

piece of legislation, the defendants wrongly put a price on a basic

constitutional right," says the lawsuit, which Griffith filed against

six city officials, including Gross and current City Attorney Jose


Riptide has put a call out to Smith for comment on the latest suit, but hasn't heard back yet.

Meanwhile, the figure at the center of the dispute -- Jane Gross, who is not named

in the latest suit --  announced last week that she will run

for her husband's seat on the commission next fall.

Read more about her

bid and Griffith's plans to take her down in the New Times later this


-- Tim Elfrink

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink