Nakash family hit with $17M judgment tied to South Beach hotel

Owners of Miami Beach’s Hotel Breakwater engaged in and attempted to conceal “an ongoing fraudulent scheme” to evict restaurant tenant, judge ruled

Joe and Avi Nakash and the Hotel Breakwater at 940 Ocean Drive (Google Maps, Getty Maps)
Joe and Avi Nakash and the Hotel Breakwater at 940 Ocean Drive (Google Maps, Getty Maps)

In an allegedly illegal quest to oust a restaurant operator from one of its South Beach hotels, the Nakash family enterprise hired a private investigator to pose as a guest who concocted bogus noise complaints about the tenant.

The tactic failed spectacularly, and provided substantial proof for Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Valerie Manno Schurr to hammer the Nakashes, owners of the Hotel Breakwater at 940 Ocean Drive, with $17.4 million in punitive damages and $2.1 million in attorney fees, according to court records.

Jordache Jeans founders and siblings Joe, Avi and Ralph Nakash also own the former Versace Mansion, Hotel Victor and the hotel components of The Setai Miami Beach. Recently, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board denied a petition by the Nakashes and the Setai’s condo association that aimed to stop the redevelopment of The Shore Club, a competing Art Deco hotel.

Manno Schurr ruled last week that the Hotel Breakwater’s ownership entity, managed by Joe Nakash, engaged in an “ongoing fraudulent scheme” to unlawfully evict Catherine and Anthony Arrighi, the owners of Ocean’s Ten, a restaurant in Hotel Breakwater.

Nakash representatives fabricated evidence that was submitted in the case, intentionally and improperly provided false responses to discovery requests, lied under oath, filed a false expert report with the court and lied to city of Miami Beach officials and special magistrates, Manno Schurr’s order states.

Joe Nakash and Shaul Nakash, chief marketing officer for New York-based Nakash Holdings, did not respond to text messages seeking comment. Hotel Breakwater attorney Jeffrey Wertman and Salem Mounayyer, the hotel’s general manager who participated in the fake hotel guest caper, according to the judge’s order, also did not respond to requests for comment.

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Ocean’s Ten has about a decade left on its lease, and plans to continue operating the restaurant, said Steve Ebner, the Arrighis’ lawyer. “We hope there will be no other problems from the landlord,” Ebner said. “This case has been going on for almost three years; even after we discovered their improprieties. We are just happy that justice was done.”

In January 2020, the Arrighis sued Hotel Breakwater’s ownership entity for breaching its lease agreement. Ocean Ten’s operators alleged the Nakashes, through Mounayyer, “engaged in an unlawful campaign of harassing the tenant and its employees,” as well as interfering in the restaurant’s operations, the judge’s order states.

The Nakashes countersued and filed a separate eviction lawsuit against the Arrighis, who have remained current on their monthly rent payments throughout the litigation, court records show. In an attempt to establish another reason for default, Hotel Breakwater’s landlords alleged Ocean’s Ten had been the subject of noise complaints from hotel guests, according to the judge’s order.

But the complaints were made by a single individual: Anthony Plisko, a private investigator the landlord hired to “repeatedly pose as a hotel guest in order to make noise complaints” to Miami Beach code enforcement officers, who in turn slapped Ocean’s Ten with violations, the judge’s order states.

Under oath, Mounayyer defended his hiring of Plisko and contacting city officials to enforce noise complaints against Ocean’s Ten. In her order, Manno Schurr also admonished Mounayyer for showing “a lack of respect for these proceedings and disregard for the potential award of damages against the landlord” because he laughed multiple times during his testimony.

“Importantly, the landlord has still refused to take accountability for its reprehensible actions, continues to wrongfully blame the victim…and has failed to show remorse,” Manno Schurr wrote. “In short, the landlord abused its position under the lease in an attempt to financially devastate and oust its tenant, and reap its own financial benefit at [Ocean Ten’s] expense.