On Tuesday, New Times reported the backstory behind the recent police and code enforcement crackdown in Wynwood, which has led bar owners to suspect that Operation Dry Hour is more about downtown clubs stifling competition than about safety. When we looked into the allegations, we found that downtown clubs do, in fact, have a close and lucrative relationship with police. The clubs have complained to both cops and local politicians about "unfair competition" from Wynwood bars. And police have admitted these complaints spurred them to action in the up-and-coming neighborhood.
But one downtown club owner accuses New Times of fomenting conspiracy theories. "This reporter likes half-truths as much as half-baked ideas," says Michael Slyder, owner of Mekka and president of the Miami Entertainment District Association. Click through for his full response to the piece.
Slyder does make some good points, such as that Wynwood bar owners' ignorance of the law is no excuse and that lax regulation puts the public at risk. But both of those points are spelled out repeatedly in the article.
He also makes some personal attacks, calling me a "hack, gonzo-want-be-journalist." (You're only half-right, Michael. My daily mescaline intake alone qualifies me as a full-bore gonzo quack.)
Psychotropics aside, I stand fully by my article.
Slyder also asks if New Times readers are "so stupid as to believe this crap." I trust they are smart enough to read the article and decide for themselves what is going on in Wynwood.
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Here is Slyder's full email to New Times:
Ignorance isn't bliss - it's just damn ignorance. It appears that the owners cited in the article freely admit that they have violated the law and don't seem to draw the connection between law enforcement and their actions, opting instead to frolic in the grassy knoll of conspiracy theory. As I said to the hack, gonzo-want-be-journalist Mr. Michael Miller, the bars in the Entertainment District have and continue to be closely regulated by the police and that this has been the case since late 2007. We have been cited, arrested, and shut down into code compliance. There are many lines that we do not cross and we accept the limitations imposed on us. We rarely apply for special event permits because we know that the City will expect strict compliance with fire and safety codes. Downtown clubs don't have outside music and have expended hundreds of thousands of dollars to lessen our sound footprint in the district, including the costly enclosure of an open terrace. Don't think for a second that the police and fire department have moved on from our district. Mr. Miller was also told about a MEDA member that was recently shut down for serving past 5am; another member had fire code complications that seriously impacted his plans for this year's Winter Music Conference. This reporter likes half-truths as much as half-baked ideas. Honesty seems a rare commodity for some of the Wynwood business owners who would like you to believe that they have insubordinate employees who serve just a few minutes past 3am, that they're neighbors don't complain about noise disturbance, and that the fire department and code enforcement have cited them for minor infractions. Are the New Times readers so stupid as to believe this crap? Public safety and compliance with the law is not optional. You can't grow a business by violating the law and in doing so, create an unfair advantage against your supposed "Park West competitors". Yes, you heard me correctly - an UNFAIR advantage. Given the expenses in Park West, do you think that these clubs can compete with small bars with no cover and two-for-one drink specials? The Miami Entertainment District Association (MEDA) is more than just policing; it is an organization that allows us to work together for the common good of not only our businesses but our community - a bit syrupy and cliché but nonetheless the truth. We have provided back-packs and Christmas toys to thousands of local children, sponsored gun buy-back programs, and have contributed to a number of other community causes. Why don't you write about that Mr. Miller? But if it is the hiring of police that interests you, then it should be noted that violent crime in the Entertainment District has decreased approximately 15 percent since the policing program began in 2010. Our security receive regular training from the police and are taught that they are protectors - not overzealous enforcers. We call for service without hesitation before an incident escalates into a serious problem where people can get hurt. MEDA officers work under the direction of the Commander and recognize that the management of a nightlife economy is most effective when it is done in cooperation with the businesses. Cooperation is not synonymous with collusion; I know it's not sexy or salacious but it is nonetheless the truth...the full truth...and the only truth. Conspiracy theory implies an "Unlawful plan formulated in secret by two or more persons". It appears by Mr. Miller's own admission that several of the Wynwood bars have conspired to secretly complain to the Miami New Times about a rogue business group that is resolute on shutting bars down that knowingly violate the law. Are we left to believe that the Miami New Times is nothing but a propaganda machine deployed by some clandestine, shadowy group in Wynwood to shift public opinion so that the police will step back and allow these bars to continue serving liquor well into the morning hours? I have no facts to support such ridiculous claims and the fact that no one really cares about what the New Times has to say inoculates me from such silly, irrational paranoia. One final point: let's imagine for a moment an ugly, horrific event that occurs sometime in Miami's future. Allow me to provide the New Times title of the article: "Miami Bar Owners Found Guilty of Faulty Wiring in Killer Fire - Police and Fire Departments under Suspicion". There is no one better than Mr. Miller and the Miami New Times at concocting conspiracy theory. Mike Slyder, MEDA