Going down? Elevators at Setai Miami Beach keep breaking, annoying residents and guests

Nakash family-owned luxury condo-hotel is also being sued by an elevator company for unpaid $54K bill

From left: Ralph, Joe and Avi Nakash, owners of Setai Miami Beach, along with a photo of the condo-hotel at 2001 Collins Avenue and 101 20th Street (Setai Miami Beach, iStock)
From left: Ralph, Joe and Avi Nakash, owners of Setai Miami Beach, along with a photo of the condo-hotel at 2001 Collins Avenue and 101 20th Street (Setai Miami Beach, iStock)

Can a little bubbly fix the aggravation?

For more than a year, malfunctioning elevators at the Setai Miami Beach have angered residents and guests, resulted in multiple city code violations and a visit from firefighters to free trapped occupants, and sparked a lawsuit over a nearly $55,000 unpaid bill for repairs.

Sometimes, when one or more of the three main elevators are not working, the condo-hotel’s staff has handed out glasses of wine and champagne to long lines of people waiting in the lobby as a small apologetic gesture, according to a unit owner and a tenant at the Setai who spoke to The Real Deal on the condition of anonymity.

The residents said they are afraid the owners of the Setai Miami Beach’s common areas and hotel operation will cut off their access to amenities in retaliation for speaking about the property’s ongoing elevator problems.

“When all the elevators were out during the holidays and everyone had to use the service elevator, they had a big buffet set up,” the unit owner said. “They’ve also handed out stuff like power bars, Gatorade and little milk cartons.”

The faulty elevators are in the 40-story residential tower at 101 20th Street, behind the Art Deco Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel at 2001 Collins Avenue. Connected via a courtyard, both buildings are part of the Setai Miami Beach. An elevator in a two-story building that houses four villas next to the Setai’s pool deck has also been out of order for a lengthy period of time, the tenant and the unit owner said.

The Nakash family, founders of the Jordache Jeans brand and owners of several high-profile South Beach properties such as the Versace Mansion, bought the Setai’s hotel components, including two restaurants and the Dempsey Vanderbilt for nearly $90 million in 2014. Avi, Joe and Ralph Nakash also own eight units in the Setai’s 164-unit condominium, which has also been a favored hangout for the Kardashian family.

Shaul Nakash, chief marketing officer for New York-based Nakash Holdings, and the firm’s vice-president Ariel Nakash did not respond to emails requesting comment. Setai General Manager Alex Furrer, who is being sued for defamation by a female resident with whom he had a sexual affair, also did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to anecdotal accounts from the unit owner and the tenant, TRD also obtained city records related to non-working elevators at the Setai. Miami Beach Fire Department personnel responded to an emergency call about four people trapped in one of the elevators on March 24, according to a city incident report.

Firefighters had to drop down 20 feet to the top of the elevator and open the emergency hatch, the report states. “We then set up a rope system to bring the occupants up and out, safely,” the fire rescue narrative states. “We set up each occupant with a rope harness and a helmet, and had a firefighter assist them up individually.”

Since December 2019, the Setai has been hit with seven code violations of $250 each for operating an elevator with an expired certificate of use, most recently on March 29, according to the city of Miami Beach’s code compliance department.

The unit owner, who pays $4,000 a month in maintenance fees, said the Setai’s elevators have been a problem for at least a year. “I got stuck in one last winter,” the unit owner said. “It has gotten progressively worse. Recently, one of the elevators I was riding just conked out, just as the door opened. Luckily, I was able to step out onto my floor.”

Between Art Basel Miami Beach and New Year’s Eve, there was a period of time when all three main elevators stopped working, forcing residents and guests to use the service elevator, the unit owner said. “People were packed inside and some of them were in danger of missing flights because it was stopping on every floor,” the unit owner said. “That’s when they were serving refreshments in the lobby.”

The tenant also got stuck in an elevator in December and shared a photo with TRD showing a crowd of people crammed into an elevator, and another image that showed two people sitting on the floor of one of the non-working elevators. “All the elevators are broken,” the tenant said. “The middle one hasn’t worked at all in a long time and the other two are not far behind.”

The tenant also provided a short video clip showing two people arguing inside an elevator because one of them refused to wait for another ride up the building.

During a site visit two weeks ago, TRD confirmed that the middle elevator in the lobby was not in operation, and that the elevator in the villas building was also out of order.

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The Setai’s elevator situation worsened when Fiji Elevator Company recently sued Setai Hotel Acquisitions, the Nakash ownership entity, for failing to pay $54,857 for parts and labor. Fiji also placed a lien on the property, court records show.

According to the April 5 lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the Setai hired Lake Worth-based Fiji in January to repair the elevators. Invoices attached to the complaint show Fiji billed the Setai about $103,000.

Fiji CEO Isaac Puentes told TRD he needed to speak with his lawyer before commenting. Fiji’s lawyer Michael Friedman did not respond to requests for comment.

In an April 11 email, Setai lawyer Allan Reiss told TRD that his client has “paid Fiji Elevator in excess of $400,000.00, disputes the current invoicing, and looks forward to its day in court.”

The same day, Setai General Manager Furrer emailed unit owners a first quarter newsletter updating them on several projects, including the elevators. In the newsletter obtained by TRD, Furrer said, “We hired a new elevator maintenance company with high expectations for an improvement of the elevators.” The Setai also retained an elevator consulting company that “is assessing all our elevators and will provide us with an action plan and recommendations for the repairs,” Furrer wrote.

Two days later, on Wednesday, Reiss emailed TRD again. “Please be advised that all elevators in the residential tower are running,” Reiss wrote. “As of today, there are no violations pending with the city of Miami Beach concerning the elevators in the residential tower. Finally, all elevators in the residential tower have valid certificates.”

On Friday, two of the main elevators and the service elevator stopped working, according to a text from the anonymous tenant. “Only one elevator works,” the text said. “I cannot. LOL.”