Swanky SoBe Restaurant Bâoli Accused of Forgery and Fraud in Landlord's Lawsuit

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But behind the luxury sheen and pulsating EDM is another quintessentially Miami Beach story: allegations of forged documents, fraud, and reckless deceit in SoBe's broken permitting system. In a town where a half-dozen officials have recently been arrested for taking payouts from clubs and restaurants and millions in fees have suspiciously gone uncollected, the allegations suggest the Beach's big-money tourism scene is still a lawless Wild West.

At the center of the Bâoli mess are four documents with fake signatures used by the restaurant's owners to obtain permits for thousands of dollars' worth of construction and to extend hours at its outdoor bar. The building's owner has filed a civil suit and a complaint with the city over the bogus John Hancocks, all in the head-scratching hope of evicting his highly profitable tenant.

"It's the most frustrating thing I've ever been through," the landlord, Miguel Chibras Romero, says. "The dishonesty here is amazing."

Bâoli's owners, who have a lease and pay $29,632 monthly rent on the property, though, say the signatures were a simple misunderstanding. They contend Romero is seizing on them as a convenient excuse to paper over his own failures as a landlord.

"[The lawsuit] can only be deemed a deliberate attempt to destroy the restaurant," the owners recently argued in court. "Closing a successful restaurant at peak season is a devastating blow, not just in terms of lost profit, but in loss of face."

Their dispute has now become a major headache for Miami Beach officials. City attorneys met again with an incensed Romero last week but have so far elected to avoid taking sides.

It's not how Romero envisioned his relationship with Bâoli playing out -- especially considering the restaurant is the most successful tenant in his building in years.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink