THE PERMIT ON THE 743 WASHINGTON AVENUE SIGN IS EXPIRED
BLACK & WHITE DISTINCTIONS IN SOUTH BEACH
Unintended Consequences of Black Week and White Fright
15 December 2015
By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR
Hernan Cardeno, Esq., highly esteemed FBI liaison and Director of the Code Compliance Department of the City of Miami Beach, did not appreciate our article last week, ‘Black Week Scare Lingers on in Miami Beach – No Crowd Control Frightens City Officials into Civil Rights Violations,’ about how his officers shut down the party organized by No Crowd Control LLC promoter Floyd Bostic during Black Week 2014 aka Urban Week in South Beach.
The party was held at politically influential Scott Robin’s rental nightclub at 743 Washington Avenue, and the event included a pool party inside the Clinton Hotel nearby. According to Bostic, he lost the $20,000 cash paid to Robins for the hall, plus whatever his cut would have been on sales at the Clinton Hotel when Code officers shut him down to obtain what they considered to be compliance with the city’s labyrinthine ordinances.
Code Compliance administrators, when criticized for their negligence, selective enforcement, and lack of pro-activity, tend to excuse themselves as being short of staff and too busy to punish many violators, saying that compliance and not punishment is their objective.
In this case, they fined and prosecuted Bostic for $1,000 in the Special Master “court” instead of the prominent property owner, a personal friend and partner of wealthy businessman Mayor Philip Levine, for not having a special event permit for the 743 Washington Avenue party, which is required for activities that are extraordinary. Nothing happened at the Clinton Hotel, thanks to Code Compliance.
However, the event in Scott Robins’ hall was not extraordinary for the usage certified by the city for that venue: i.e. entertainment and dance with alcohol until 5AM. Bostic said he retained a caterer to handle the liquor and security. The problem was that, according to Cardeno, a “large crowd” had gathered in front of the club, so the police called his officers in to do the dirty work. If the whole crowd had gone inside the club, the occupancy limit might have been exceeded. Furthermore, No Crowd Control’s web page generally advertises its events as 18+ college kid parties, implying that liquor would be served to minors at the South Beach event.
Of course there were large crowds as usual on the streets that night despite the fact that the city and police forces from multiple jurisdictions had done everything they could previous Memorial Day weekends to discourage unruly black folks from swarming to the beach. The disrespect and violence incited by a few blacks, mostly locals from Miami-Dade, would up in a nationally televised police slaying of a black man in 2012.
Many residents cared less about whether or not the shooting was justified. It was the tipping point that led to the beach being occupied by an army of cops in subsequent years. Movements of the black swarm were restricted to a small circle. Clubs and restaurants were shut down. Whites fled the area.
Black Week 2014 was a non-event, yet Washington Avenue, the most “urban” of South Beach’s streets, was crowded. The police powers were waiting for the likes of Floyd Bostic.
Director Cardeno, revealing information that seemed to contradict our ‘Black Week Scare’ piece, noted that we had not acquired the case files.
“All the detail provided here could have been gleaned from the case file, which you did not request. You made your own supposition from the limited web portal site.”
I had indeed relied on the public face to those files, the city’s online Permit Manager records. Unfortunately, the files are two-faced. The public, superficial face is rather opaque despite repeated calls over the years to render it more transparent. The tendency is to blame the computer for the opacity. The two-facedness has concealed a great deal of hypocrisy.
Now the information Cardeno revealed from behind the online face did not disclose if officers had counted the people inside the club to see if the occupancy limit was violated, if bouncers were allowing minors to enter the club, if servers were serving minors, and so on. The general rule for nightclubs is that minors are not allowed into them unless food is served therein. Whether that rule was abided by was questioned without response when Justin Beaver admitted he was at Club SET in South Beach prior to his famous pot-headed racing arrest.
Cardeno had previously denied that the caterer had a liquor license, but now admitted it although stating it was not applicable to the club, not identifying the caterer so the information could be checked. His chief administrator had not answered a previous question put, as to why, if there were liquor law violations, no one was arrested. That compliance was obtained was reason enough for his department to close the file on that issue without referring liquor violations to regulators or prosecutors.
The point of our article is that Code Compliance dropped all charges against Bostic’s No Crowd Control but one, the failure to obtain a special event permit. Our article had noted that two subsequent events were held at the club, and Code Compliance had dismissed complaints about the events as invalid: a fundraising party for abused women with $30 admission tickets, and a promotional art party for 100% agave liquor. Needless to say, they were predominantly white events.
Cardeno drew “distinctions” between those two events and Bostic’s, characterizing Bostic as a man with at least bad if not criminal intentions, and revealing that it was “estimated” that the subsequent events had less than 260 attendees.
We hope that Cardeno, a sworn police officer, would not arrest a man for his unseen intentions before he commits a crime.
“I do not know how you characterize this promoter as a ‘victimized businessman’ in your article. This promoter took a $20k risk (or whatever amount he expended) to pull off an unpermitted, for-profit, all-out party hoping not to get caught during a weekend when our resources are stretched thin.”
Ladies and gentlemen from out of town, do your due diligence, beware of doing business in South Beach, where a sucker goes broke almost every week.
He correctly pointed out that the agreement between Bostic property owner had not been examined, which would have been wise to do prior to prosecuting Bostic. Maybe Bostic is just another slick promoter. If so, he sure fooled me when I met him.
This may be one instance that Code Compliance should have walked away with perceived compliance instead of punishment, because I feel the police power is prejudiced, and I believe the fine may have some embarrassing consequences for the city if he appeals it to a real court with competent lawyers from out of town, and perhaps files a federal suit against the city and the officers involved for civil rights violations if the facts and circumstances so warrant.
The Special Master’s decision was based not on a failure to obtain a special event permit. Bostic asserted there was nothing special about his use of the premises, that other promoters had used the club for parties, and it was certified and advertised to be used for entertainment and dance with alcohol. Cardeno’s “straightforward” revelation of the facts thus far does not prove any use of the premises beyond its approved uses.
The code officer at the Special Master hearing stated that the property owner had not obtained the certificate for those uses until several days after Bostic was cited. Bostic objected that any fine should go against the property owner for misuse, especially since he approved it. No, said the Special Master, you must take the matter up with the landlord, and you are guilty in the eyes of the city, so when do you want to pay the fine?
That led me to suppose that, in this great city by the beach, fines go against the property unless it is owned by a politically influential public figure like Scott Robins, or unless a black man can be blamed.
Please excuse me for the black and white supposition: I cannot help it after what I have experienced in the deepest of the Deep South. I myself started catching the prejudicial disease after arriving in Miami Beach.
Of course there is discrimination against white folk who are crazy enough to buck the system, criticize city hall, and expose corruption and so on. The former city attorney characterized that sort of folk as “delusional.”
I suggested to Cardeno and other highly placed lawyers in the city, including the city manager, his assistant, and the city attorneys, that they dismiss this case against Bostic in the spirit of the holidays. They are persons of the highest integrity with incredible resumes, not to mention intelligence, and I believe that would be the right thing for them to do.
I also predicted that Cardeno would pull rabbits out of the hat, which he did. The biggest funny bunny, the one most pertinent to the narrow issue here, is a copy of a receipt, along with an argument that the club owner had not paid the renewal fee for the use permit in time so it was not in effect until it was paid four days after the event in question. Therefore, during that tardy period, any event would be a violation. Naturally any complaints about events during that time would be invalid except the one brought by the police against No Crowd Control. Somehow, the event promoter would be liable during the lapse and not the property owner, in this case involving Scott Robins Companies.
Cardeno did not mention in his email that, according to internal sources, nearly half of the city’s sidewalk café permits, due September 30, have not been renewed yet, yet the cafes continue to operate with impunity. Scores of sidewalk café permits were at six months overdue last year.
One restaurant owner who is punctilious about paying his bills on time complained about the tardiness of his competitors on the block, and how they were setting out unpermitted chairs on the sidewalks to absorb tourist traffic before it got to his place.
He met with Jimmy Morales, Esq. and Morales’ troubleshooting assistant manager, Joe Jimenez, Esq., and Director Cardeno on March 18.
“What do you want me to do,” asked Morales, “close everybody down or solve the problem?”
The city was nice: business went on as usual, with warnings, a fine or two, a flagrant violator paid a fine but did not renew until a shut down notice was given, which should have been given to all, strictly speaking, and so on.
One might think that a professional city manager would make sure notices are automatically sent out a month prior to renewals being due, and that violation notices are sent out if payment is ten days overdue, and that violators be subjected to fines and closures after, say, thirty days of grace. And perhaps the cycle could be changed to renew permits at the height of the season when registers are flush with cash, instead of at the depth of the off season. Also, the outrageous rates should be reduced.
Guess what happened to the whistleblower who complained about the delinquencies? He was threatened by the landlord for putting pressure on the other tenants, and sued for eviction shortly after his meeting with the high powered lawyers with the city. Guess who his landlord is?
Guess who has not had special use permit and business tax license for an apartment hotel he has operated for several years? Guess how long it has taken city officials to do anything about it?
What we have with this two-faced system in the case of No Crowd Control is hypocrisy. It may very well lead to the revelation of even more black and white distinctions. That is not to say that improvements have not been made. More will probably be made after this. And more retaliations will lead to more calls for improvement. And so on unto Doomsday.