Mark Lowe struggled for the right word to capture his idea for Wynwood's first and only major nightclub. "It's definitely not a lounge, but I wouldn't describe it as a megaclub either. It's really its own entity — it's a house," Lowe told New Times. That was 2011. Two years later, his club, House, has yet to open.
Delays are nothing new in Miami's nightlife scene. But Lowe says his House ordeal has nothing to do with managerial missteps or financing snafus. Instead, he says, it's due to collusion between rival clubs downtown and city officials.
"The truth is that they know Wynwood is a threat," says Lowe. "The downtown clubs are trying to wipe out any business outside of their neighborhood by any means possible."
Downtown Nightclub Owners Fight Wynwood's First Megaclub
Lowe's particular beef is with Michael Slyder, co-owner of 24-hour nightclub Mekka and president of the Miami Entertainment District Association (MEDA), which represents all-hour clubs downtown. Earlier this year, Miami Police started handing out citations like Halloween candy to Wynwood clubs after Slyder complained that they were staying open past their licenses.
Now Slyder is leaning on local politicians to delay or prevent House from ever opening, Lowe claims. Slyder did not respond to numerous requests for comment, but emails obtained by New Times bolster Lowe's argument.
In one email, sent October 2 to Vanessa Trujillo of the city's Planning and Zoning Department, Slyder writes on behalf of MEDA to ask for "assistance in filing an appeal" to House's license. Another email sent to Daniel S. Goldberg, legislative assistant for Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, asks to meet to talk about House and Wynwood's pending increase in liquor licenses.
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It's unclear whether Slyder and Sarnoff actually met, since neither would talk to New Times. But — surprise! — both issues went Slyder's way. During an October 24 Planning and Zoning committee hearing, Sarnoff postponed giving Wynwood more liquor licenses. Then he restricted House's liquor license to 4 a.m. instead of 5.
Lowe points out that House is technically across the street from Wynwood in the OMNI district and so is eligible for a 5 a.m. license. "It's simply about the viability of the business," he says, noting he's sunk $4 million into the project. "At 4 a.m., we are going to be bombarded by cops hassling every customer."
Above all, however, Lowe is angry that another club owner is using a nonprofit with close ties to city cops, officials, and commissioners to attack House before it even opens. "To think that one man and his personal relationship [with Sarnoff] is going to jeopardize this for me, or for Wynwood, is outrageous," Lowe says. "Any commissioner or person who is against that is clearly against growth. That's money and jobs. Why is that a bad thing?"