Proposed rooftop lounge on Lincoln Road up in the air

Miami /
Apr.April 29, 2015 12:00 PM

Plans for a new lounge at the former Sony building at 605 Lincoln Road hit a snag at Miami Beach City Hall Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Wilkings, a London-born entertainment executive from Toronto, told The Real Deal his company Howard Hospitality Group has a contract to buy 605 Lincoln Road’s rooftop space from the current owner, The Upper Deck.

However, the transaction won’t close unless Miami Beach city officials sign off on a conditional use permit allowing Howard Hospitality to operate a 193-seat lounge that will be open until 2 a.m. seven days a week.

“The sale is conditional on obtaining this approval,” Wilkings said. “We think [the lounge] will be a real benefit for the Lincoln Road community.”

Wilkings will have to wait until the end of next month to find out if Miami Beach Planning Board members buy his vision. At Tuesday’s meeting, the board delayed voting on the permit following objections from the 605 Lincoln Road Association, which represents the owners of the 47 office condo units in the building.

Tucker Gibbs, the association’s attorney, urged the planning board to deny the permit. “The proposed use is too big and too intense,” Gibbs said. “What they have presented needs more work.”

In addition to possible noise complaints, lounge patrons will cause overcrowding in the 1930s Art Deco building’s lobby, elevators and stairwell, Gibbs argued. “The approval of this permit will overburden the elevators,” he said, adding the lobby is too small to accommodate people waiting to go up to the roof.

Elena Bondarenko, the attorney for Howard Hospitality, provided board members with copies of an operational plan that she said refuted Gibbs’ criticisms. Both lawyers also called their own elevator experts to offer opinions on capacity.

“We believe we have addressed their concerns in every possible way,” Bondarenko told the board. “Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much constructive feedback.”

She insisted the lounge is not going to be a traditional Miami Beach nightclub or bar. Instead, it would cater to a high-end clientele looking for a relaxing place with an open air view of the city, Bondarenko said, adding that the planning department recommended approval of the permit.

The city currently allows the existing owner to use the rooftop as a banquet hall for special events such as weddings and corporate parties. The Upper Deck purchased the space in 2011 for $90,000.

Following the board’s deferral, Wilkings  who opened successful nightlife venues in Toronto in the mid-2000s told TRD that the association is implementing a delay tactic.

“We really didn’t get the chance to rebut their attorney,” Wilkings said. “But I’m confident we will get approved when we come back in May.”

The planning board also addressed the transfer of ownership for the $278 million sale of the Royal Palm Hotel. The new operators affirmed they would abide by the terms of a four-year-old conditional use permit given to the previous owner by the city’s planning board.


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