After five years in business at the Village at Gulfstream Park, the owners of Fate — a swanky nightclub that plays mostly hip-hop music — were ready last summer to extend their lease another five years. But for months, Ramzi Naber and Philip Houston have been unable to reach an agreement with management at the Hallandale Beach mall, which is memorable mostly for its ginormous statue of Pegasus stomping a dragon.
The reason: Naber and Houston claim Gulfstream Park is being racially discriminatory by demanding that they stop doing promotions with local radio station 99 Jamz and other hip-hop promoters who cater to the African-American community.
"Black people scare the customers of Gulfstream's other businesses," company managers allegedly told the two, adding they did not want "urban hiphopsters" there.
Now, Naber and Houston are suing the Village at Gulfstream Park in federal court, arguing they are being harassed and discriminated against on the basis of race. The lawsuit, filed last month by Wilton Manors attorney Eric Yankwitt, claims that the company has breached their lease agreement and that they are entitled to the five-year extension.
A spokesperson for the outdoor shopping center, which opened in 2010 adjacent to the prominent horse-racing track Gulfstream Park, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Naber and Houston signed a five-year lease with the Village at Gulfstream Park in November 2012, with the term set to begin in February 2013. Under the agreement, the two would have an option to extend the term by five years as long as they met all of the terms and conditions and let the landlord know six months in advance.
Nader and Houston poured thousands of dollars into giving the space an upscale-club feel, complete with red velvet ropes outside the entrance and sophisticated lights and sound inside. Club Fate opened that same year. Its owners later entered into contracts with 99 Jamz and local promoters to do live broadcasts from the club.
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But on January 30, 2016, according to the complaint, managers of the shopping complex told the pair that Fate could remain open only if they stopped using the radio station and hip-hop promoters to advertise the club. It was during that meeting that the managers allegedly told the club they didn't want "hiphopsters" at the mall.
The club owners say they had relied on the five-year extension option when they decided to invest in building out the premises, the suit says. So in June 2017, they informed the Village at Gulfstream Park they wanted to stay for another five years, from February 2018 through January 2013. Mall managers, though, refused.
Their refusal, the suit argues, "is substantially based upon intentional, race-based discrimination."
The Village at Gulfstream Park has not yet filed a response in court.