Pour some more! Judge blocks Miami Beach’s 2 am alcohol sales ban during Spring Break, as bars and hotels cheer
Jesta Group’s Clevelander hotel and Jeffrey Soffer’s Story nightclub sought temporary injunctions blocking the rollback
In a court win for the owners of the Clevelander hotel and Story nightclub, booze will keep flowing until 5 a.m. in Miami Beach’s entertainment district during Spring Break.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko granted The Clevelander a temporary injunction on Tuesday that blocks the city of Miami Beach from forcing nightlife venues to shut off beer and liquor sales at 2 a.m. between March 7 and March 21, the peak weeks when thousands of college-age tourists flock to South Beach.
The city plans to appeal the ruling, which also benefits Story, whose owners also have a pending motion for a temporary injunction.
In November, voters approved a non-binding ballot question to move up alcohol-serving hours for bars and nightclubs to 2 a.m. from 5 a.m., as one measure to tamp down raucous mayhem in the city’s Art Deco Entertainment District. The measure is also widely supported by a majority of the seven-member Miami Beach City Commission, including Mayor Dan Gelber.
The city is evaluating several proposals to make 2 a.m. last call permanent in most parts of Miami Beach.
Butchko’s ruling is the latest twist in an ongoing lawsuit filed last year by Clevelander Ocean, an affiliate of Montreal-based Jesta Group, which owns The Clevelander South Beach at 1020 Ocean Drive.
In June, the judge also sided with Clevelander Ocean by ruling that the commission acted illegally when it held a vote to temporarily roll back alcohol sales to 2 a.m. in the entertainment district last year. The area is between Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive, from Fifth to 15th streets. The city has an appeal pending before the Third District Court of Appeals.
Attorneys for Clevelander Ocean declined comment.
On Monday, developer and Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel owner Jeffrey Soffer and nightlife impresario David Grutman joined the legal fracas to maintain the 5 a.m. last call. The operating entity for Story nightclub at 136 Collins Avenue in the city’s South of Fifth neighborhood sued the city to stop enforcement of the Spring Break 2 a.m. last call.
Soffer is manager of Amnesia Investor LLC, which owns Story’s operating entity, according to corporate records. Grutman opened Story in 2012 and co-owns the party spot with Soffer. The duo are also partners in LIV, the nightclub at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
The land and the building where Story operates out of is not owned by Soffer or Grutman.
Soffer was unavailable for comment. Paul Schwiep, an attorney representing Story’s operating entity, declined comment.
In its Feb. 28 motion for a temporary injunction, Story’s operating entity accuses city commissioners of ignoring Butchko’s prior ruling that stated approval of the 2 a.m. rollback required five affirmative votes. The city commission approved the latest rollback by a 4-3 vote. Story’s operating entity also alleges Miami Beach elected officials ignored the advice of City Manager Alina Hudak and City Attorney Rafael Paz that they should wait for a ruling on the city’s appeal.
A Miami Beach spokesperson said the city will also appeal Butchko’s latest ruling. In a statement, Gelber defended the city commission’s continued push to cut off booze at 2 a.m.
“We are obviously disappointed,” Gelber said. “Our City seems to be held hostage by a handful of all night bars whose business model foments the disorder and chaos that endangers our residents, visitors and cops.”