Clevelander to Miami Beach: "You've Declared War" on South Beach

The Clevelander is determined to fight city hall.
The Clevelander is determined to fight city hall. Photo courtesy of Clevelander South Beach
There's an old saying that you can't fight city hall. But that's precisely what one longtime South Beach establishment is doing.

Last month, Miami Beach city commissioners voted to ban alcohol sales from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the city's entertainment district, as part of a 12-point plan to rechristen the area as an "Art Deco Cultural District" in an effort to combat crime.

On May 17, attorneys for the Clevelander filed a lawsuit against the city, in an attempt to allow it to keep selling alcohol between 2 and 5 a.m. and to resume playing music above ambient noise levels.  The 90-page lawsuit opening salvo: "The City has declared war on South Beach's famed Entertainment District." (The complaint is embedded in its entirety at the end of this article.)

This past Monday, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko agreed with the Clevelander, stating that the city commission didn't vote correctly on the issue.

Alexander Tachmes, an attorney representing the Clevelander, tells New Times the city's 2 a.m. ordinance was improperly enacted.

"The judge ruled it should have been treated as a zoning code amendment and the 2 a.m. rollback is not valid," says Tachmes.

While the judge ruled in the bar's favor, Tachmes cautions that the battle is not yet won. The next step, he says, is an order they are drafting for the judge to sign.

After that, he expects the City of Miami Beach to file an appeal to keep the 2 a.m. curfew and the noise ordinance in place.

"The city will try to freeze the judge's order and there might be a flurry of activity," Tachmes predicts.

In that case, the Clevelander will ask for a temporary injunction while the lawsuit moves through the legal system. "If we waited 18 months or two years, we would suffer terrible harm," Tachmes explains.

Tachmes says the Clevelander is merely seeking to be able to stay open until 5 a.m. and keep the music volume outdoors exactly as it has done for the past 20 years: in other words, to be "grandfathered" in.

"We told the city this last summer when we tried to negotiate with them that there should be a business category of legacy establishments that would be able to operate under the old laws," says the attorney.

By his lights, only four businesses in the entertainment district would qualify as legacy establishments. Though he didn't name the others, the Palace and Mango's Tropical Cafe are among those likely to qualify.

Tachmes says that the Clevelander's iconic status could be harmed if it's not allowed to stay open until 5 a.m.

"It's known as a late-night venue for live outdoor entertainment in Europe and throughout the United States," notes the attorney, adding that he and his team are still willing to talk it out with the city to avoid a long legal battle.

"We are ready at 9 a.m. tomorrow to talk."
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss