Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth Get City Approval for Sunset Harbour Rooftop

Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth can now begin earnest work on their new Sunset Harbour restaurant and rooftop patio. They received the essential nod from the City of Miami Beach yesterday.

The approval took about an hour and a half at yesterday's city planning board meeting. The chefs came prepared, with their attorney, an architect (McInnis' brother John), and Don Washburn of the Audio Bug, who had conducted a sound survey for the restaurant, located at 1787 Purdy Ave., the former home of Joe Allen and PB Steak.

The meeting included some new details of the restaurant. The 142-seat venue will consist of an 84-seat dining room on the first floor and seating for 12 people outside. The eatery will also feature a 46-seat rooftop with a retractable canopy for shade and rain shelter. Though there will be no dedicated bar on the roof, there will be a raw bar. Plans were also submitted for the installation of a staircase and elevator for ADA compliance. 

What caused the most debate was the ability to play music on the rooftop. Residents of Sunset Harbour South, a towering building where condos sell for upward of $8 million, voiced concerns over the potential noise, citing nearby Purdy Lounge as a particular bone of contention. Board President Susan Kilrain countered it with thoughts that the restaurant would also be an asset to the neighborhood. "I can't wait to get to know you. The only disagreement is the music issue." Kilrain was more concerned that allowing this restaurant to have music would set a precedent for other restaurants opening on Purdy Avenue. "We're happy to meet with you guys afterward. We do welcome them, but we would like a restriction on the music."

Sound consultant Washburn's study, however, concluded that the ambient music that McInnis and Booth want to play would be no more than 80 decibels — not much more than the speaking voice of a man at close range. 

The question of why have music outside at all was raised. Chef McInnis took the floor to respond, saying, "Part of the success of a restaurant isn't just the food. Music is one of those elements. From time to time, I've sat at dinner with my significant other and had absolutely nothing to say to her. That's rare because I love her, but there are couples that sit and there can be an awkward silence. 

"My job as a restaurateur is not to just cook a great meal. It's for someone to not feel awkward, sitting there with nothing to say. As much as it may sound silly to bring this up, it's true. Restaurants are getting so competitive today. Having just a good meal doesn't cut it anymore. You have to leave with a good meal and your husband or wife smiling at you. Somehow you got through the meal and nobody fought and everything was good."

McInnis added that the planned music will not be wild rock 'n' roll. "It's going to be something soft and elegant. This is a whole package, and I do want to come back to Miami, and I want to do it in this area."

McInnis and Booth also have the support of the local restaurant community, with Andrew Kaplan — former general manager of Prime One Twelve — and CheeseMe food truck owner and Delano Hotel manager Christophe Baraton speaking on their behalf. The planning board also mentioned a number of letters received in support of the restaurant.

After just a moment's deliberation, the Miami Beach Planning Board gave the restaurateurs the approval they sought. 

McInnis was relieved about the outcome. "It was great. It was a huge relief. We really thought we were going to have stones thrown at us, and that wasn't the case at all. In fact, it seemed like the residents of Sunset Harbour were behind us. Even when they said something, they also said something positive."

Though this was a big win for the couple, McInnis reminded himself that this is just the beginning in the process of opening a restaurant. "There are a lot more phases. This was a baby step."

McInnis and Booth are the owners of Root & Bone in New York City and are opening Sarsaparilla Club at the former Morimoto space in the Shelborne Wyndham Grand Hotel in Miami Beach in early 2016. The partners plan to serve "American dim sum" at the Sunset Harbour concept.
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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