Il Giardino's Outdoor Music Permit Remains Suspended

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Il Giardino's Outdoor Music Permit Remains Suspended:

planning board unhappy with restaurant's pattern of violations

Il Giardino continues to provoke the ire of the Miami Beach Planning Board. This week, the Board voted to continue the suspension of the Ocean Drive restaurant’s outdoor music permit. It’s the only leverage the Board has to monitor the restaurant’s behavior and they are using it.
 
Following a history of violations and complaints about the restaurant’s “bait and switch” tactics, the Planning Board called the restaurant’s owner Imam Duz in for a review in July. They told him to clean up his act or face revocation of the permit at a hearing in September. Still unhappy with Il Giardino’s operations, the Board decided on a suspension to ensure it would still have some jurisdiction over the restaurant.

At the opening of this week’s hearing, Board member Jeff Feldman acknowledged the restaurant refunded $645 to a customer who complained he was overcharged for a seafood platter and drinks. But the restaurant failed to satisfy the bulk of the Board’s concerns and, this week, the outdoor music permit was suspended for another 60 days.
 
Attorney Alex Tachmes told the Board he had just been retained that day. “I’m aware of the Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews that they’ve had and the negative reputation that they’ve gained so I’ve kind of made it clear to them as a condition of my representation that there’s going to have to be a clean start in terms of the effort of the business to comply with all requirements that this board imposes going forward. Naturally you will see for yourself in the next 30 and 60 days whether a change is apparent. I believe that a change is sincere on their part and that they’re going to make the changes needed.”
 
Already, he said, the restaurant has reached out to Steve Haas, a restaurant consultant to conduct “a top to bottom review of their operation that may involve firing some of the employees that are there”. He said the menu has been changed to more prominently display prices and the gratuity charge “is now conspicuously provided on the bill” and that servers will verbally tell each customer it has been added to bill.
 
Noting a recent violation that a customer had been allowed to take an alcoholic beverage off premises, Tachmes told the Board, “I know you can consider another suspension today because they haven’t been spotless since the last hearing. I would ask you, respectfully, not to do that. We are now in high season, particularly with the Christmas holidays, New Year’s Eve, and to give them 30 more days to see if they will be able to move forward on the right path going forward.”
 
Board member Daniel Veitia was out of patience. “You’re here because month after month the applicant comes in front of us, makes statements of their willingness to create change, yet every single month they come back demonstrating their inability to create that change," he said.
 
Veitia pointed to a report the Board had just received of an undercover code compliance and police visit to the restaurant that included the bait and switch behavior and an employee allowing alcohol to be taken off premises. “I’m sorry. Until your client can actually show that they have the ability to manage the service they are providing, I have a responsibility to the public to do everything I can until they can demonstrate that,” Veitia said.
 
“It’s not impossible,” he continued. “There’s so many restaurants in this area that don’t have this level of criticism. So why is it I should expect next month anything’s going to change when it’s only going to be season and more people are going to be impacted?”
 
“I’m not inclined to provide them any additional time,” Veitia told his colleagues. “I was advocating at the last meeting to give them a chance. And here I am looking at this,” he said referring to the police report. “I’m sorry. It is time to create change. I have the ability to do that. Ocean Drive needs to be a place where residents want to visit, residents want to have a good experience, and tourism needs to be protected and we have the ability to ensure we’re protecting the brand of Miami Beach. Then so be it. We’ll take every ability we have to do that.”
 
Tachmes who had not yet seen the report said, “Until they have shown you a clean record for 30 – 60 days, I acknowledge you’re going to be skeptical. But what I’m telling you is I know they are committed to making change.”
 
Veitia asked, “Can you operate for thirty days like any normal restaurant? … I see the willingness, now I’m questioning the ability. Two different things.”
 
The Board decided it needed longer than 30 days to determine if change could be made and voted to continue the suspension for an additional sixty days.
 
In the meantime, at this month’s City Commission meeting, City Manager Jimmy Morales told Commissioners his team was looking at ways to give the City the ability to suspend or revoke outdoor café permits for egregious behavior, a bigger threat than the Planning Board's only leverage being through conditional use permits which, in the case of Il Giardino, only regulates the ability to have outdoor music.

 
 

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