For 17 years, Purdy Lounge has been the low-key antidote to South Beach's overhyped, overpriced, and overcrowded club scene. The Sunset Harbour mainstay has never charged a cover to enter its dimly lit interior, where separate rooms pump out old-school hip-hop and current dance hits, all with reasonably priced cocktails flowing.
But after a recent gunfire incident rattled neighbors, one Miami Beach commissioner is threatening to roll back the club's hours from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Purdy's co-owner says doing so would force the club out of business.
"How could we compete in that market where everyone else is closing at 5?" says Dan Binkiewicz, Purdy's co-owner. "No one wants to come here and then find an Uber at 2 a.m. to go somewhere. That's not a level playing field. We'd lose around 60 percent of our business."
Commissioner Ricky Arriola says he sponsored the ordinance — which is scheduled for a first reading at the commission's meeting Wednesday — after a recent incident outside the club where a man in a car fired shots into the air.
"I'm a huge fan of Purdy Lounge," Arriola says. "But the shooting freaked a lot of people out, and I wanted to at least have a conversation about whether it's appropriate to still have these grandfathered-in 5 a.m. closing times."
But Arriola says he now plans to defer the item to give residents, Purdy's owners, and police more time to talk and to work out a solution to their concerns that doesn't involve rolling back closing times.
Long before Sunset Harbour became one of Miami Beach's most sought-after neighborhoods, packed with hip restaurants, yoga studios, and high-end retailers, it was a forgotten bayside corner of SoBe. For years, the lounge affectionately nicknamed "Dirty Purdy" drew locals and industry workers to dance away late nights on Purdy Avenue.
But as the neighborhood has changed and new residents have shelled out millions for condos, Purdy's brand of Everyman dance club hasn't always been a comfortable fit. Arriola admits that's part of what drove his ordinance.
"What's happened, not just at Purdy, is these 5 a.m. liquor licenses in densely populated neighborhoods can become incompatible with the area," Arriola says. "Sunset Harbour has gentrified quite a bit recently."
When Binkiewicz learned about Arriola's ordinance, he put out a call for help on Facebook this weekend, asking fans of Purdy Lounge to email commissioners and consider attending Wednesday's meeting. His post has nearly 700 shares to date:
Binkiewicz says he worries there's a larger push across Miami Beach to do away with the area's famed nightlife scene as real-estate prices continue to skyrocket.
"They are trying to sanitize South Beach. They're trying to make it like any other good old American neighborhood and forget about the role the nightlife industry has played in making this neighborhood," he says.
Binkiewicz admits Purdy has had challenges in recent years: The heavy construction in Sunset Harbour as the city raised streets to battle sea-level rise hurt business, as did the Zika outbreak and construction at the convention center. But he says business has picked up lately and the club recently renovated. He hopes politicians don't seize on clubs as an easy target during an election year.
"After all the problems during Memorial Day, and during an election year, it's a perfect storm for anyone who wants to roll back hours across Miami Beach," he says. "But magic happens after 2 a.m. Commerce happens, dancing happens, camaraderie happens, love happens."
Arriola says he's willing to give Purdy a chance to keep it's late-night happenings alive.
"Their business model has always been catering to locals and industry people, and if they can respect the quiet enjoyment of the neighborhood, I think everything can be worked out," Arriola says. "I think Purdy Lounge is committed to doing the right thing."
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