Club Space Sues Former Owner Louis Puig Over His Involvement With Heart Nightclub

Space. Club Space. Space 34. (Remember that?) Whatever incarnation of the megaclub you are most familiar with, one thing has remained constant: Louis Puig. His name is so synonymous with the dance music institution that there couldn't be a Space without Puig.

Puig aptly managed to steer Space in the right direction throughout the years — even when New Times got into a war of words with the nightclub in 2003 over a Best of Miami award and a subsequent DEA raid, the club's notoriety only seemed to grow.

However, in 2013, Puig announced he had sold the club to a group of investors that included nightlife heavyweights Roman Jones and Justine Levine. "I'm very proud of what we created in Downtown Miami and have been privileged to work with some amazing and talented people," Puig wrote in a letter he sent out before the start of Winter Music Conference 2013. "Space was ahead of its time; it was the anti-establishment to the South Beach commercial VIP clubs with the French velvet-rope attitude that unfortunately still prevails today."

After the sale, Puig didn't exactly disappear from the Space roster. In October 2015, he even celebrated his birthday at the house he built with a 24-hour marathon that spilled over to the nightclub next door, Heart.

In the end, it seemed like the investors who took over Space knew Puig had built something special. Other than light renovations, Space has essentially remained the same. Even with stiff competition from neighbors, it still dominates Saturday night with throngs of partygoers dancing well past sunrise, just as they have for over 15 years.

But it seems the relationship may have soured between Space's new owners and Puig. On May 6, Space filed a lawsuit against Puig, citing breach of contract. Involved in this mess is Heart, the adjacent venue that New Times recently bestowed a Best of Miami award for Best Dance Club thanks to the strength of its recent bookings.
When Puig sold Space in 2013, instead of collecting his money and retiring, he entered into an employment agreement with the club, perhaps as a way for the new partners to guarantee that Puig wouldn't try to directly compete with their investment. The contract he signed had both a non-interference and non-compete clause. In return, Puig was paid a weekly salary of $1,500 and given a 1 percent revenue share.

The partners contend Puig violated his contract when he began getting involved with Heart. Puig has also allegedly pushed promoters and DJs to terminate their relationship with Space and go over to Heart.

However, according to Puig, he did let Space's new investors, Jones and Levine, know he was getting involved with Heart. Puig alleges that when he entered into negotiations with Heart's short-lived predecessor, Bekkoi, he put up money for himself and Space's partners to be involved in its transformation to Heart. According to Puig, new agreements were drafted and Jones and Levine supported the partnership.

Puig also claims that the agreement he signed at the start of his employment had already been breached multiple times by Space, although no specifics are given.

"As their own documents show, the owners of Space instituted a lawsuit against Louis Puig which we have claimed is not supported by the facts and/or by the applicable law," says Michael J. Schlesinger, Puig's attorney. "My client is hopeful that they will voluntarily dismiss this suit." (Puig's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on May 31.)

Contacted for comment, Space disputes that Jones and Levine gave Puig the go-ahead to invest in Heart. "The facts are that Mr. Puig signed a non-compete agreement which prohibited Mr. Puig, among other matters, from soliciting or hiring Club Space employees or from operating a competing club in the 24-hour entertainment district," says a Space representative. "However, as will be demonstrated in the court proceedings, Mr. Puig violated these obligations after being told repeatedly by Club Space’s management not to invest any funds in the Heart nightclub."

Space is asking for compensation; however, the lawsuit doesn't give a specific amount since "damages sustained by [Space] cannot be completely calculated." It's also asking the court for an immediate injunction against Puig so he is prohibited from contacting business providers and operating Heart.

Yes, all this back-and-forth is making my head hurt, too. Either way, here's hoping both Space and Heart come out of this legal mess unscathed. Miami has lost enough great venues as it is.
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Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran