Building Rights and Wrongs
Thanks to Kirk Semple for covering the efforts of the Save Miami Beach PAC to give voters a say about waterfront development. I would like to respond to some of the issues raised in the article ("Arrested Development," January 16).

An anonymous lawyer who is "intimately familiar with Beach zoning issues" makes much of the possibility of a takings claim against the city if the amendment passes. But our petition does not seek to reduce the rights of property owners. Rather it would require owners who want to increase their building rights on waterfront properties to seek voter approval. Any competent and unbiased attorney will tell you that there is no basis for a takings claim when no taking has occurred.

The article gives the impression that the amendment, if passed, would "slow -- if not stop -- any further development along the city's waterfront." In fact it would simply allow the public to vote about increases in zoning for waterfront properties. Property owners could still build within the zoned limits as they stand on the day the signatures are validated. And a developer could still get zoning increases -- provided the voters like the project. The article suggests that the Portofino project has been targeted. It would be affected, but it is only one example of the upzoning that has plagued our city.

The people of Miami Beach want a say in how our city grows. Beach voters, watch for our volunteers on Super Bowl weekend; we'll be on Lincoln Road and in other visible places gathering the last of the signatures. Find us and sign! We'll be looking for you.

Eric Gottlieb
Miami Beach

My Dinner at Joe's
I was happy that Jen Karetnick reviewed Miami Beach's original emperor without clothes, Joe's Stone Crab ("No Pause for Claws," January 9). Her more-than-fair review of this ridiculous place brought to mind my two dinners there, the first in 1982 and the last in 1995.

I knew in 1982 that Joe's was a tourist trap but nevertheless went because my out-of-town partner's parents wanted to eat there. I believe the going "entry bribe" at the time was ten dollars, which we paid. But we were in and out in 45 minutes, even with coffee and dessert. Never have I seen plates fly off a table so fast or felt such pressure for table turnover. The food, then as now, was good but not great, and we left bemused at our own ignorance for even trying the place.

I never expected to return. My 1995 dinner was brought about by work-related gift certificates worth $100, which I retained until they were about to expire. Coincidentally I had just read in a newspaper about founder Joe Weiss's obsession with table turnover. So this time, with three guests, I was in the mood for a little sadistic revenge. We got in, this time without paying, and were seated rather quickly on a Sunday at 5:00 p.m. I was again amused by everything being a la carte, a sign of cheapness and greed to me, and we joked that we were surprised we didn't have to pay rental for the silverware.

Well, we finished dinner and dessert and decided to just sit and chat. The plates flew away, and the waiter hovered and hovered and grew more and more anxious. I was enjoying every bit. Finally, after I satisfied my sadistic pleasure, we tipped and left. End of story, but thanks for letting me remember my dinner at Joe's.

Scott Toth

Big Fish, Big Heart, Big Loss
I was deeply touched by Kirk Semple's article about Tommy Sykes ("55 SW Miami Avenue Road," December 5). Tommy was a graduate of the February 1938 class of Schenley High School in Pittsburgh. When we held our 50th class reunion in Pittsburgh, Tommy was there in his signature cutoffs, straw hat, and sneakers, looking very much the Floridian despite the cold weather.

Because many of our classmates lived in Florida, we decided to hold a weekend 51st reunion in Bal Harbour. Tommy was the inimitable master of ceremonies at the class banquet. On the first night of the reunion, Tommy, the ultimate host, opened his restaurant to honor the class with a dinner that we will never forget. It was an awesome scene, with a full Miami moon shining over the Miami River.

Tommy and I kept in touch, and lunch at the Big Fish was always a special treat for me. He loved life, and yet when he disclosed a serious illness to me, it was with a "such is life" attitude that made me feel he would win the battle.

55 SW Miami Avenue Road will never be the same without that unique open-air restaurant. Tommy's classmates will remember him always as our "Big Fish."

Bessie Lederman Selevan

Last week's "Cafe" column incorrectly stated that Capital Grille, at 444 Brickell Ave., was not yet open. In fact the restaurant has been open for a month. New Times regrets the error.


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