Hed Kandi Lounge was supposed to be South Beach's elite dance club, a classy refuge from Mansion across the street. You could go there and eat expensive foam -- um, molecular gastronomy -- and then dance to psychedelic Muzak -- um, house beats -- while sipping a $14 cocktail. Ecstasy not included.
Unfortunately, the club didn't work out that way. But it did make a lot of trial lawyers euphoric.
The club, located on Washington Avenue at 12th Street, was the brainchild of 32-year-old Panamanian promoter Juan Carlos Dominguez. Among the shareholders who bought in: Juan Carlos "Tito" Fernandez Tapias -- aspiring reality TV star and 26-year-old son of Fernando Fernandez Tapias, vice president of international soccer juggernaut Real Madrid.
"All he talks about is 'My father the billionaire,' " Dominguez mimics. "But Tito's from a third marriage. He doesn't have money; I have money. He's not liquid; I'm liquid."
As you might have guessed, relations between the two young Juan Carloses have soured.
The trouble began shortly after the grand opening in October 2008, when Ministry of Sound, the British nightclub and record label that owns the trademark Hed Kandi, sued for copyright infringement -- even though, Dominguez claims, he had arranged franchising rights.
After a prolonged battle in federal court, the club owners changed the venue's name to Fierce Angel. But business lagged, and after an ill-advised remodeling in summer 2009, the club's coffers dwindled perilously. Dominguez returned from a trip to Panama, he says, to find the locks changed, his office trashed, and his ownership share in the club he created lost through legal machinations. It was a "hostile takeover," Dominguez says.
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Although Fernandez Tapias says "it's a legal thing," he implies that his former partner used club funds on personal expenses. "There was always money missing," he says. "Eventually, we asked, 'Where's that cash going?' "
Dominguez angrily denies that implication. "Where is the proof," he demands, "and why did he never take legal action?"
The club was sued by a construction manager named Roman Roman for not paying for the remodeling, and the suit was settled in April 2010. A month later, after being evicted from the space for not paying rent, the troubled club finally went bellyup, and today the two club kids blame each other. Promoter Dominguez claims he lost more than $730,000 in the debacle. And Fernandez Tapias, who also lost six figures, incurred the wrath of an angry soccer tycoon: "I had to ask my father for money again," he laments. "I just told him what happened, put my head down, and he was really angry at me."
There's some good news, though. Both Juan Carloses are too broke to sue each other. "If I were to start legal action, it would cost me $20,000," Fernandez Tapias says. "My family told me to move on and take it as a learning experience."