It's Over for the 2x1 Specials Boards in Miami Beach

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

It's Over for the 2x1 Specials Boards in Miami Beach:

New ordinance now in effect prohibiting the signs

The 2-for-1 signs that were so prevalent up and down Ocean Drive are now a thing of the past. A new ordinance prohibiting the specials boards citywide takes effect today. It’s part of a larger effort by the City Commission to eliminate deceptive, bait and switch practices on the street.
 
After our story highlighting the specials boards that appeared recently at News Café, a move that surprised long-time Ocean Drive observers, RE:MiamiBeach sat down with Anthony Arrighi-Gonzales whose family owns Ocean’s Ten and, since the spring, has managed News Café for owner Mark Soyka.
 
Arrighi-GonzaIes remembers the way Ocean Drive used to be. “I grew up on the street. I’m an Ocean Drive kid,” he said recalling the days when Gianni Versace restored a nearby mansion and ate at News Café. “I remember all that.”
 
Born in France, Arrighi-Gonzales moved with his family to Boca Raton in 1994 and to Miami Beach a year later when the commute to their Casa Blanca restaurant at 650 Ocean Drive became tiring.
 
The late Tony Goldman was their first landlord. (Goldman Properties happens to be News Café’s landlords as well.) “There was only one Tony Goldman and there will always be only one Tony Goldman for South Beach,” Arrighi-Gonzales said. He calls Goldman and Mango’s owner David Wallack, the early pioneers. “Those people for me really lived Ocean Drive.”
 
Over the years, Arrighi-Gonzales has watched the crowd on the street change. “It’s not a better or a worse crowd, just a different crowd, a crowd that got accustomed bit by bit to 'What’s my best deal?'”
 
Ocean Drive, he said is “still a destination” but where once “people came for a good time, whether you wanted to sit at a café or on the beach… Now it’s a place to come to find a deal.”
 
Of the sign prohibition he said, “I love it. It will hurt at first… the crowd is used to it. They come for a deal but that deal won’t exist anymore. I truly believe it’s for a much better and brighter future for the whole street.”

Mike Palma, Executive Vice President of the Jesta Hospitality Group which owns the Clevelander and Chair of the Ocean Drive Association, made similar comments at a meeting of the Commission's Neighborhood and Community Affairs Committee with regard to the Ocean Drive consumer. The 2x1 specials and hawking (which Commissioners are trying to end with a new Code of Conduct for sidewalk cafés on Ocean Drive) are "creating a consumer who is coming to the Drive with one thing in mind, 'What can you do for me?'... They’re basically being taught that Ocean Drive is a discounted area to come and be. It brings that demographic that wants a discount and everybody else is suffering as a result... The brand is, ultimately, what suffers the most and with the huge investment that we have, multi-millions on the property that we own, it’s just not sustainable. We need to turn this around."
 
Both Ocean’s Ten and, most recently, News Café have made use of the 2x1 signs and specials which Arrighi-Gonzales said was necessary to compete with neighboring restaurants making the offers. He is aware of the complaints and bad reviews that have been posted about Ocean’s Ten. With 2,000 customers a day, complaints are inevitable, he said. The restaurant tries to make them right within reason but some customers are only looking for a free meal and threaten negative reviews to get it. He doesn’t mind complaints but, “Do it fairly,” he said. “Nobody should be the victim of blackmail regardless of the situation.”
 
Losing the signs is a solution in his eyes but “others will see it as a problem.” Some of the restaurants that are operating on very tight margins are concerned, he said. “I’ve heard fear… the clientele is looking for a deal. Are they still going to come?” 
 
“But they’re operators who didn’t know the old days of Ocean Drive. They only know the current one,” Arrighi-Gonzales said. “I personally don’t agree with them but I understand the fear factor.”
 
He does think there will need to be “deeper rules and greater enforcement to avoid the tricks that are going to be seen. The idea [of getting rid of the signs] is great but the enforcement has to be deeper,” he added. [Clarification to an earlier version of this story: The specials board ordinance is Citywide with a one-year exemption for sidewalk cafés located north of 63rd Street.]
 
Ultimately, he said, the goal is that “Everyone should feel at home here. Miami Beach depends a lot on tourism but locals should feel welcome to come to Ocean Drive.” 
 
“The transition… will be difficult at first and the best way to overcome this is to work as a team,” he said praising Ocean Drive Association Chairman Palma for his leadership.
 
“When needed we are all a family and, sure, the family members do fight. We don’t always agree but, in the end, we are a family,” he said. “We spend more time on this street and with people in our own businesses than we do our own families.”
 
Arrighi-Gonazales studied Business Management at the University of Miami. His first job in the family business? “First, I was a shadow,” he said. His father, who passed away ten years ago, gave him the task of following Ocean Ten’s manager.
 
His father’s instructions were, “Follow him. Ask no questions. You learn. You ask questions when I tell you you’re ready to ask questions.” Later, he said, he understood the wisdom of that. One of the things he’s learned, “We’re not in the food and beverage business. We are in the service business.”
 
In addition to Ocean’s Ten, the family also owns Call me Gaby which opened in December of 2017. 
 

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