Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth Petition City Over Sunset Harbour Rooftop

Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth might have left Miami for the bright lights of New York, but the duo is planning a big return to South Florida with two restaurants in the works.

Sarsaparilla Club is set to open at the former Morimoto space in the Shelborne Wyndham Grand Hotel in Miami Beach sometime in early 2016. The Root & Bone partners plan to serve "American dim sum," with Booth providing insight from her time in Southeast Asia. The chef is looking forward to showcasing the multiculturalism of her home soil. "We'll bring some worldly flavors to the table."

On the heels of that announcement months ago, McInnis and Booth said they would open a seafood concept at 1787 Purdy Ave., the former home of Joe Allen and PB Steak. The little square, standalone building, constructed in 1940,  has traditionally posed challenges for previous tenants, partially because of nearly 1,000 feet of second-floor space that's not used to generate income. According to the listing on real estate site LoopNet.com, prospective tenants "can convert roof above dining room (3,000 square feet) into an outside terrace overlooking the bay. Measurements approximate." An initial investment in building out an al fresco dining area could pay for itself in a few years.

To McInnis and Booth, the idea of a patio where diners could watch the sun set sounded like a winner. 

When they proposed their rooftop plans to the Miami Beach, they were met with red tape. Apparently, some Sunset Harbour residents are concerned about noise, even though the nearest residences are at least a block away in all directions.

The culinary duo argues that they have no plans for holding raves on the rooftop — just some soothing background music to set the tone for a nice evening out. An engineer, hired by the couple to conduct an acoustical study on the property, has confirmed there will be no negative noise impact on neighboring properties.

Miami Beach planning director Thomas Mooney insists that the city is just doing its due diligence and that approval is needed for the work McInnis and Booth have planned, which includes the installation of a staircase and some sort of sheltered area on the roof. Mooney also said that the chefs' paperwork has not been approved nor denied.

As a possible last resort, the couple is taking to the public forum for help. They've established an online petition in the hopes of generating 500 signatures from fans of their food who would like to enjoy a sundowner at their still-unnamed Sunset Harbour restaurant. 

In addition, they're asking for Miami diners to send an email to Mooney, "explaining how you believe this new concept will enhance the Sunset Harbor area and will not increase noise levels from simple ambient music on the rooftop deck" at [email protected]

The petition states the following:
"Chefs Jeff McInnis & Janine Booth are opening a seafood concept on Purdy Ave. in the old Joe Allen’s location, 1787 Purdy Ave, Miami Beach. They are excited about the spot and would like to build out the rooftop into an amazing dining space where you will enjoy the sunset view over the Miami Harbor 365 days a year. In order to build this rooftop deck, which is critical to the success of this project, we need your help with City Hall. The city and some locals have noise related concerns with building a restaurant with an outdoor deck in Sunset Harbor. This new concept does not include loud music that would be easily heard by any of the surrounding neighbors. Jeff and Janine simply want to be able to have background music suitable for a high quality dining establishment. They have even hired an engineer to do an acoustical study, and he has confirmed that there will be no negative noise impact on neighboring properties and noise levels in the area will not increase.

As many of you may know, Jeff and Janine have owned and operated plenty of well-established and fun restaurants in Miami and NYC, including Gigi’s, Yardbird, and Root & Bone. What they ask is that you sign this online petition and if possible, send an e-mail to Mr. Thomas Mooney at the City of Miami Beach government [email protected] explaining how you believe this new concept will enhance the Sunset Harbor area and will not increase noise levels from simple ambient music on the rooftop deck. Feel free to add as many positive words as you like and please get as many local Miamians to help.

Thank you in advance for your help and we are looking forward to feeding you soon!"

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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