Club Madonna Wins Free Speech Argument, Escapes Fine Over Mattie Bower Poster
While the nation has been consumed by the debate over whether or not President Obama should release gruesome, post-mortem photos of Osama Bin Laden, we've got our own First Amendment controversy brewing in Miami Beach.
Club Madonna, the neon-lit flesh palace on Washington Avenue where you can get nipple tassels galore but still no booze, has won yet another battle with the Miami Beach city gov.
Only instead of grisly pics of Islamic fundamentalists, this squabble involves a poster of mayor Mattie Bower stuffing cash into a male dancer's underwear.
Last Thursday the club was spanked with a code violation for displaying a poster featuring the mayor putting money into a dancer's banana hammock. The poster (reproduced in its entirety below) was titled, "Our Mayor 'Giving Back to Our Community'," and included text bashing Bower for supposedly putting "decency" ahead of business and debt-reduction.
Club owner Leroy Griffith says he didn't make the poster but liked it enough to put a copy on the love seat outside the club a couple of months ago.
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Just before 1 p.m. on Thursday, however, code compliance officer Emmanuel Bastos stopped by and slipped a ticket into the club's proverbial g-string for "posting... a sign without first obtaining a permit from the Building Dept. official."
Griffith, who has a long-standing and litigious feud with the city government over his inability to obtain a liquor license for SoBe's only strip club, says the ticket's timing was no coincidence.
"I've had this photo of Mattie up for a month or two," he says. "So (Bastos) must have been sent here by somebody since the election is coming up."
Despite the ticket, Griffith refused to take the sign down. Later that day, he received a call from Robert Santos-Alborna, acting director of Code Compliance.
"He said maybe they had made a mistake and the sign was legal," Griffith says. In an email to Club Madonna, Santos-Alborna said "the sign in question has been deemed a '1st Amendment Protected Sign'... No further action is required from you at this time."
But the Titty King cannot rest easy on his throne. Griffith claims city commissioners are now pressuring him to get rid of the love seat outside his club in order to finally obtain a liquor license.
"They want me to remove the chair out in front and change the whole front of the club," he says of the love seat where his scantily clad dancers often sit in between performances. "Tell me, what's wrong with the front of the club? We want people to know that it's an adult establishment after all."