Six months after curing building code violations and reopening its doors, La Piaggia is officially closed for business, The Real Deal has learned. This time, a landlord dispute ended the popular restaurant’s run in Miami Beach’s South-of-Fifth neighborhood, according to residents of Murano at Portofino, the condo tower at 1000 South Pointe Drive where La Piaggia was located.
The unit owners, who declined to be named, said the closure was part of a settlement agreement between La Piaggia’s owner Robert Escanesy and the Murano at Portofino Condo Association, ending a 21-month-long legal battle. According to a Nov. 23 letter the condo board of directors sent Murano owners, the settlement was to be ratified Dec. 2.
“The agreement puts an end to the litigation,” states the letter, which was obtained from a resident. “Given the importance of this meeting, we are asking all owners to please make every effort to be in attendance.”
Attorneys for the restaurant and the condo association did not return messages seeking comment. Three separate calls to La Piaggia’s phone number during its normal business hours on Monday were not answered.
In March of last year, La Piaggia sued the Murano in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleging the condo association breached its lease agreement. The lawsuit stated Murano’s “recently elected board of directors has set out an open and hostile campaign to prematurely force [La Piaggia] out of the leased premises by any means necessary.”
The lawsuit accused the Murano board of failing to honor two amendments to the original 2007 lease agreement that gave La Piaggia options to renew its contract every five-and-half years beginning on Sept. 30, 2012 until May 31, 2023. According to a rent schedule included in the lawsuit, La Piaggia paid $9,875 in monthly rent during fiscal year 2015-2016 and the rent increased by four percent every year.
Despite knowing Escanesy had invested $750,000 in renovations, the condo association began sending La Piaggia letters in January 2015 that the lease would end in 2018 and no extension would be granted, the lawsuit alleges.
In addition, the condo board allegedly sought to make the situation unbearable for La Piaggia by imposing unreasonable valet parking conditions, trying to prohibit mail and packages from being delivered to the restaurant, and reporting frivolous noise complaints to Miami Beach code enforcers, among other complaints, according to the lawsuit. The condo board even killed a deal in which Escanesy was going to sell equity in the restaurant to an undisclosed investor, La Piaggia alleges.
In April, La Piaggia was forced to temporarily close after the city of Miami Beach posted a “Notice of Violation” on the property after the restaurant had been out of compliance with the Florida Building Code since at least July 2015. La Piaggia sued the city in an attempt to overturn the decision, but ultimately corrected the problems and dropped its complaint. La Piaggia had reopened in June.