BLACK WEEK SCARE LINGERS ON IN MIAMI BEACH
No Crowd Control Frightens City Officials into Civil Rights Violations
18 December 2014 (Update)
By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR
MIAMI BEACH—Event promoter Floyd Bostic liked South Beach when he visited Miami Beach during Spring Break. “What a cool, relaxed place, not too crowded,” he said, “a great place for an event.” So he looked around for a venue, and saw the big Scott Robins sign at 743 Washington Avenue.
RETAIL, CLUB, EVENTS 6,000 SQ. FT. DAILY, WEEKLY, YEARLY 5 AM LICENSE SCOTT ROBINS COMPANIES
“The real estate agent checked my documents. I handed over a cashier’s check for $20,000 to rent the hall for two nights. I got a catering company with a liquor license to handle the event. I was all set.”
Or so he thought. The Miami Beach Police Department, Fire Department, and Code Compliance Department showed up at the event on May 25. Fire and Police hesitated, so Code led the raid on his event on May 25.
Mayor Philip Levine, friend and partner to Scott Robins, owner of the building and manager of the club, was reportedly on the scene as well. A city source, speaking on condition of anonymity, lauded the honorable mayor for not intervening on behalf of Robins.
So what? His company had already pocketed the rent. His company would not be cited for the violation actually prosecuted, for failure to have an event permit, although, as we shall see, it should have been, if there had been a violation, and there was not. Instead, Floyd Bostic would be persecuted.
Mr. Bostic’s company’s name, No Crowd Control LLC, was an unfortunate name given the past history of Black Week aka Urban Week in South Beach. “No Crowd Control was just a name for college events back when I started out,” he explained. I had to explain to him what was up with Black Week, why the police power was paranoid.
City officials, succumbing to pressure from civil rights groups, had failed to adequately control the huge crowds of black folks descending over the Memorial Day weekends. There were shootings and massive quality of life violations. Residents were being disrespected by the small unruly faction within the crowd. The majority just wanted to relax and have some fun, not to make trouble, most of which came locally, from over the bridge.
Frankly speaking, there was a Black Scare on one side, and resentment on the other, culminating in a sort of police riot during Urban Week 2011.
The police surrounded a car driven by one Raymond Herisse (22) and fired 116 bullets into the vehicle. He did not survive. Seven bystanders were also injured. The reasons for the shooting were variously given, and evidence was withheld from the court by the city attorney’s office. On the third anniversary of the shooting, or four days before No Crowd Control’s event would be shut down, NBC reported that the investigation of the shooting was still pending.
The No Crowd Control event has four complaint tickets showing in the online violations system.
Ticket CE14009435 against No Crowd Control for noise was deemed invalid because the officer responding to the noise complaint that initiated the investigation said the noise was not excessive.
Ticket CE14009440 against No Crowd Control for selling liquor without a license was closed out on July 17. Bostic said that was because the catering company had a countywide liquor license for events. The company’s representative at the club insisted it had a license, said she would call her liquor lawyer, and chided the officers for raiding the event, saying they were discriminating against blacks. Hernan Cardeno, Esq., a sworn police officer and FBI liaison who is the director of the city’s Code Compliance Department, initially scoffed at the idea that a liquor license existed, but he later said there was a license although it was not countywide nor applicable, explaining that the charge was dropped because Code Compliance had obtained compliance with the cessation of sales. Neither he nor Code Compliance administrator George Castell responded to the questions why no one was arrested or referred to state regulators for alleged violation of liquor laws, especially since Director Cardeno suspected minors would be served because the event was advertised as an “18 plus jam.” After accusing the Miami Mirror of not examining the file behind the public face of the violations records, he did not disclose the name of the entity that did not have the appropriate license, or whether or not any evidence had been recorded of minors drinking or bouncers and servers not checking identifications.
Ticket CE14009450 against the property owner, Scott Robins’ company, 8th Street Washington Partners Inc, for allowing Scott Robins’ nightclub entertainment company to operate a business without a business tax license and certificate of use was “closed” without prosecution that day, May 25, because, as a matter of fact, Scott Robins’ company actually had a certificate of use and business license for an entertainment and dance hall with alcohol until 5AM since 2012. One Internet ad reads, “Studio 743 offers a built in a/v infrastructure ready to be enhanced with moving lights, video displays, and wireless sound, beneficial for any occasion. Our venue is licensed and insured, and comes with a rare 5 A.M. Entertainment License.”
A certificate or permission to use a property for a certain purpose is required before getting a business tax license, which is called a business tax receipt. The local magistrate presiding over the quasi-judicial administrative, so-called Special Master “court,” would ultimately pronounce the wrong person, Mr. Bostic’s No Crowd Control, “guilty” of not having the license had by Scott Robins’ company, sticking him with a fine of $1,000, which he may appeal to the circuit court if he has $10,000 to retain an attorney. Director Cardeno later explained this away by pointing out that Scott Robins had failed to pay the annual renewal fee for the permitted use in time, leaving Mr. Bostic in the lurch because the permit was technically “expired,” the fee being paid a mere four days after Director Cardeno’s code officers shut down the No Crowd Control event. As a matter of fact, City Manager Jimmy Morales, Esq., and Director Cardeno have permitted scores of sidewalk cafes to operate months beyond the past due date for payment of the annual fees.
Even worse, Scott Robins’ companies have owned and controlled a transient apartment hotel, the Espanola Way Suites at 443 Espanola Way, which had its certificate of use application denied three years ago yet has operated without a business license or payment of resort taxes. According to information posted on the city web site, that may be a criminal offense, with the offender subject to arrest. Director Cardeno, who is before all a sworn police officer and FBI liaison, has not responded to questions why he has not arrested the person or persons responsible for that violation, nor has he responded to a request for the name of an FBI agent that can be contacted to look into the possibility of the cooperation of city officials in not appropriately prosecuting the violation.
By way of comparison, Rod Eisenberg, the owner of the Sadigo Court Apartment Hotel, was arrested and his guests evicted by the police, not for the absence of a license at all, but over a difference of opinion as to the right kind of license. A previous difference of opinion was over the corruption of city officials, about which he had successfully complained, leading, according to media reports, to the resignation of the city manager and forced removal of the city attorney from office. Attorneys are not talking about Mr. Eisenberg’s federal case number 13-23620 against the city, Rod Eisenberg v. City of Miami Beach, scheduled to come to trial in January 2014, in which he asserts his prosecution violated his civil rights and constituted retaliation for his whistle-blowing.
Ticket CE14009437 against No Crowd Control for failure to have a special event permit was left open with a mandatory fine of $1,000. The definition of “special” under the ordinance is rather vague, leaving too much room for discretion by city officials: “It shall be unlawful to engage in special events without a special events permit. A special event is defined as a temporary use on public or private property that would not be permitted generally or without restriction throughout a particular zoning district, but would be permitted if controlled with special review in accordance with this section.”
Mr. Bostic appealed to the city’s Special Master “court,” an administrative organ of the city with questionable independence since special masters have been challenged and terminated for not bending to the will of the administration. City Manager Jimmy Morales Esq., formerly a special master himself, recently replaced the special masters because, he said, he wanted to take the facility in a “new direction.”
Special Master Annette Cannon Esq., who heard the case on 13 December, seemed fair enough. She looked surprised when Bostic stepped up, representing himself, to say he had forked over $20,000 to use the club for two nights.
Bostic is a quiet, intelligent, unassuming man, slight of build, certainly not the aggressive sort of promoter one would expect to have twenty grand on him at any time. He told me he does not like much publicity on the Internet, a lot of pictures of events, and so on. He said he has a following all over Florida. He struck me as businessman, plain and simple. He said, matter-of-factly, that the $20,000 he had lost put “a dent in my second quarter.”
He told the special master that he had done what he always does in cities throughout Florida. Landlords normally have permits for halls, he said, so he goes in and rents them, and gets a licensed caterer to handle the event including the liquor and security. He figured this landlord had the necessary permits, so he was surprised to be cited for not having one, as that had never happened in any other city he had promoted events.
He said the landlord had previous events where the promoter was not cited. Too bad: the special master said that was not relevant to his particular case.
He said there was an event on November 30 at the property, that Code Compliance Officers had investigated it and found the complaint invalid. He looked on his cell phone, and provided complaint number XC15005514.
The public record on that ticket has this narrative: “CCA726, CCO56, and I inspected 743 Washington Ave. I spoke to the individual who was in charge at the location. The individual stated that “Black Swan” was hosting the event. We then inspected the location. During our inspection everything was QRU. Not Valid A.Yanes-751, B.Nunez-756, K.Varela-726.” QRU? Queens Rugby Union?
Internet pages show that that event, the “Black Swan Fashion Show,” was held by Fortress Women Foundation, with an entrance fee of $30, which apparently included drinks. According to the city’s online records of special event permits, the Black Swan event did not have a special event permit.
Online records also show another event, at the same location, held on December 3, namely the Herradura Barrel Art Collection Event, held to promote 100% agave tequila on an artistic pretext during Art Basel Week. Code Compliance dismissed the complaint without an explanatory narrative on the ticket, and some of the subsequent information divulged by the Code Compliance administrator is contrary to electronic records maintained by the “mystery customer.”
Code Compliance administrator George Castell said that no narratives are publicly given on XC complaints, although, as we have seen above, they may be given. When narratives are given, they are not given in full. And the stories can be changed at any time—the dates and times of the changes are supposed to be recorded automatically by the system, but no official seems to know that when the info is asked for.
In fact, what appeared to be selective enforcement against No Crowd Control was pointed out to Hernan Cardeno Esq., Director of Code Compliance, and other lawyers with the city including the city manager and two city attorneys, prior to the Special Master hearing, by a friend of the city who felt that any attorney would be able to successfully defend against the charge, and suggested that it be dropped lest the likes of Al Sharpton be sent down to defend against civil rights violations.
Director Cardeno responded with information irrelevant to the particular charge of operating without a special use permit at that location, except implying one would be required if “the large crowd” outside the club had went inside, for that would exceed the occupancy limit. He objected to characterizing Mr. Bostic as a victim of discrimination, insisting that he had come down to South Beach to violate the law, believing he could get away with it because Code Compliance officers would have their hands full with Black Week. When I mentioned the occupancy limit to Mr. Bostic after the hearing, he said there were only 200 people inside the club when the officers arrived, well within the occupancy limitation posted on the wall of the club. In that event no special event permit would be necessary. Director Cardeno would also say the event would have included a pool party inside the Clinton Hotel on the next block if he had not put a stop to the event, as if hotels could not do that. Mr. Bostic explained that he simply had a deal to share in sales at the hotel.
Special Master Cannon looked like she was ready to dismiss the charges, but then Code Compliance Officer H. Jimenez stated that the property owner pulled an entertainment hall permit shortly after No Crowd Control was cited, so the subsequent usage Bostic had cited was permissible.
Mr. Bostic objected that, if that were the case, then the landlord should be responsible for not having a permit for the usage he had paid for.
The Special Master said that Bostic was responsible for doing due diligence instead of relying on the landlord to have the necessary use permit, hence his claim would be against the landlord; therefore, he was “guilty” and would have to pay the fine. Case closed.
A check of the online records indicated that Code Compliance Officer may have misled the Special Master with a misstatement, in which case the matter should be reheard if not dismissed by the city attorney upon notice of appeal. Director Cardeno would later deny that the Special Master was misled, citing the technicality that the use permit obtained by Scott Robins’ company had not been paid in time therefore was expired until the fee was paid four days after the event.
The property owner has had permit BCU1200731 for a dance, entertainment hall with liquor sales until 5 am since May 18, 2012. The code officer would have known that at the time if he had checked the online record. That must have been why that charge was already closed out.
Incidentally, the public face of the complaint records does not state why a record is “closed.” In effect, the city’s so-called transparent system is two-faced. When the superficial face displayed online looks bad, rabbits can be pulled out of the hat from the files, including narratives invented after the fact.
So the advertising on the Scott Robins sign was not false since the policy of the city is to permit lapses in payment. The falsity is apparently in the city’s citation of Bostic’s No Crowd Control, and in shutting down the event at a cost of $20,000 and more to the operator, which the city should reimburse him for if a refund cannot be obtained from the landlord.
Why would city officials do such a thing? Since the 2011 police shooting, the city cracked down on Black Week to the point that it is almost a nonevent. But history is hard to forget. The Black Scare lingers, perhaps for too long. It may behoove Bostic to file a civil rights complaint and sue the city for damages for deprivation of equal protection of the laws and so on.
He is an unassuming fellow, making it difficult for him to assume that this is a black and white thing. One thing is for certain, he said, before he left to examine another venue on Washington Avenue: “It is not wise to have an event here during a big event week.”
Director Cardeno has been asked for an explanation to justify not apologizing to Mr. Bostic for the ordeal his department has put him through. The City of Miami Beach customer who objects to the city’s wrongs is always wrong until proven otherwise at great expense to everyone concerned. However, since he happens to have a reputation for great integrity, he may apologize and see what he can do to get the victimized businessman’s money refunded, or, at least, get him a hall free of rent for two days. That hall is vacant 95% of the time, showing that the property is not put to its highest and best use. It would be better converted to a hotel and restaurant school with a restaurant where diners could test the skills of its students.
Director Cardeno demurred, pulling rabbits from under the online hat. The city is filled with attorneys at law who behave as defense attorneys even when criticism is constructive. The awful truth in this case is that he would be a hero and his department would have a feather in its hat if the city had issued a press release about the discriminatory raid. Frankly speaking, nightclubs are despised by the residents of the area, no matter what color the revelers happened to be. Most residents have been horrified by Black Week.
So fair is not so fair in the City of Miami Beach. The matter has been referred to Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the ACLU just in case they are interested in evening the score.