The Clevelander which closed its food and beverage operations on March 19 following safety concerns due to unruly Spring Break crowds reopened this week but with a notice to its patrons: “Although we look forward to re-opening, please be advised that the Clevelander has a zero tolerance policy against violence and firearms. Further, all patrons and employees will be required to comply with strict Covid measures that we have put in place to ensure a responsible and safe entertainment experience.”
The iconic venue, which continued to operate its hotel, wrote in a letter to its employees that management had “grown increasingly concerned with the safety of our dedicated employees and valued customers and the ability of the City to maintain a safe environment in the surrounding area.”
In the announcement of its reopening, the Clevelander’s management said, “We believe strongly in intelligent programming to make sure all visitors to Miami Beach have something to go to in a controlled environment, instead of simply congregating on the streets. This is especially the case during high impact periods. As such we want to do our part by programming low-key day time events and ambient level entertainment at the Clevelander over the next few weeks of Spring Break.”
The Clevelander added, “We also urge the City of Miami Beach to follow our lead and start programming significant events in this beautiful city of ours during these challenging high impact periods. Given the Clevelander’s long-standing experience and well-known reputation for top quality entertainment events, we are happy to work with the City in programming its events and welcome the opportunity to work together.”
The Clevelander has run afoul of the City with recent citations for noise and an unpermitted sign last month. While the message on the sign which read Misbehavior Encouraged was not the reason for the citation, it did attract attention.
At a Planning Board meeting Tuesday, Board members who have jurisdiction of the venue’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP), sought a “progress report” on adherence to the rules imposed under the CUP after concerns were raised about noise and the unpermitted sign.
Jessica Francos, Executive VP of Jesta Group which owns the Clevelander, said in her role as GM of the hotel and entertainment venue she has worked to show the City they are “good partners and responsible operators.”
She assured the Planning Board members Jesta take its compliance to City ordinances seriously, “first because it’s the right and moral thing to do and second because of the large financial investment we’ve made in buying and running these properties.”
Regarding the sign, she said, “Please understand that we would never, ever seriously suggest that anyone act in any manner that was contrary to the law and this sign was only part of a marketing campaign similar to marketing campaigns used by many like establishments around the world… We do understand that the sign might have bothered certain City officials and other persons during this time and therefore we immediately removed the sign and we sincerely apologize for any issues it caused.”
Planning Board member Alex Fernandez who initiated the call for the Clevelander to appear, noted the placement of the sign at the beginning of the Spring Break period.
“It not only violated our Code, it offended the community at a time when it does seem people feel misbehavior should be encouraged in our community, at a time when people are jumping on people’s cars and breaking windows,” he said. “It’s a direct offense to the taxpayers and residents of Miami Beach.”
Fernandez asked Francos to be mindful that the area is “not only where you do business and where people go to have fun, but it’s also where people live as well.”
Board member Tanya Bhatt added, “It’s not just the letter of the law, it’s the spirit of the law.” She asked Francos to consider the context in which they market and program certain activities – sports-oriented during the Super Bowl and more family-friendly during events such as Art Deco Weekend when the Clevelander has previously had go-go dancers in prominent view of Ocean Drive. “Engage instead of trying to overbear with your model,” Bhatt suggested. “Play nice with everybody doing stuff around you in a weekend.”
Bhatt, a marketing professional, said “Anyone who’s been on Ocean Drive this time of year… knows that that [sign] was in poor judgment” and she urged the Clevelander to “think about the context in which you operate, not just the specific legality of what’s permitted.”
Noting the Clevelander’s history on Ocean Drive, Board member Mark Meland said, “You could be a leader and lead us into a different direction” as the City seeks to transition its Entertainment District into an Art Deco Cultural District.
Attorney Alex Tachmes of Shutts and Bowen said the owners intend to take on a “greater role on the cultural side” and will be “trying to be a little more responsive to the community” in that regard.
Asked about the early weekend curfews put in place for the Entertainment District during Spring Break, Tachmes said in an email, “Of course we have to abide by the 8pm curfew but we believe the midnight curfew coupled with strong programming is a better approach. And only imposing the 8pm curfew inside the Entertainment District does disproportionate economic harm to businesses in that zone.”
Photo courtesy The Clevelander
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