Nikki Beach operator sues Miami Beach, Boucher Brothers to stop no-bid takeover
Lawsuit accuses elected officials of “railroading sole-source opportunity” to the politically connected beach chair moguls
UPDATED, May 17, 11 a.m.
Miami Beach elected officials orchestrated a backroom deal for a politically connected firm’s no-bid takeover of a popular oceanfront city-owned venue, a recently filed lawsuit alleges.
On Friday, Lucia and Jack Penrod, through their company that operates Nikki Beach Club at 1 Ocean Drive, sued Miami Beach and Boucher Brothers, a family-run company of beach concessions moguls. The suit alleges they violated a host of city laws, including illegal lobbying and not following governmental open bidding processes.
The Penrods are seeking a court order barring the Miami Beach City Commission from voting on a proposal to find a new vendor to operate the day club and restaurant in three years when Nikki Beach’s current contract expires. Coincidentally, the Penrods have controlled the site in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood for nearly 37 years under a contract that has twice been renewed by city commissioners in the last two decades.
Several city commissioners want to rescind their votes from their April 28 meeting that waived competitive bidding and directed City Manager Alina Hudak to negotiate a non-binding letter of intent with Boucher Brothers as the new operator in 2026. The company, which has a lucrative, long-running contract to provide lounge chairs, umbrellas and other concessions on the city’s public beaches, would team up with Major Food Group to create a new restaurant concept, according to published reports.
The city commission’s giveaway to Boucher Brothers three years before the Nikki Beach contract is set to terminate created an uproar in the Nextdoor forum for Miami Beach. Dozens of residents criticized elected officials for not allowing competitive bidding, prompting at least one commissioner, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, to state on social media that she would rescind her vote.
“The lawsuit speaks for itself and citizens are speaking for themselves on social media,” said Phillip Hudson III, an attorney for the Penrods. “The city manager and staff have also spoken by recommending an open and fair process.”
In a statement, Miami Beach City Attorney Rafael Paz said the Penrods’ lawsuit has no merit.
“Penrods is asking a court to prevent the city commission from even initiating a non-binding competitive RFP process for the use of the property after the expiration of their agreements,” Paz said. “They appear to forget this is city-owned property here, and they have no right under their agreements to any further renewals.”
Brothers James, Michael, Steven and Parry Boucher did not immediately respond to a message left on their company’s voicemail.
The Penrods have been operating the city-owned property since 1985 and has invested more than $4 million in the venue, according to the lawsuit. More than a year ago, the Penrods began seeking a renewal of their city contract, and some city commissioners were aware of it.
Those elected officials, led by Vice-Mayor Ricky Arriola, “had different, undisclosed plans” that entailed “railroading a sole source opportunity to grant Boucher Brothers control over what is likely the most valuable city-owned property in Miami Beach,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that Boucher Brothers “improperly and illegally approached” Arriola and some of his colleagues to “discuss how to give” the beach concessionaire company “exclusive control” of Nikki Beach Club. Following the April 28 vote, Arriola, Mayor Dan Gelber attended an exclusive beach event hosted by Boucher Brothers and Carbone, the South of Fifth Italian restaurant owned by Major Food Group. The elected officials were gifted tickets that were sold for $3,000 a pop, the lawsuit states.
“The facts will show far more benefits bestowed on our fine commissioners,” the lawsuit states. “Arriola admits that he was first approached by Boucher Brothers during the latter half of 2022 to discuss this very topic.”
Despite not having anyone registered to lobby on behalf of Boucher Brothers, the city commission votedd to enter into a term sheet with the company for exclusive rights to Nikki Beach in 2026, the lawsuit states.