Swinging Richards Sues North Miami Beach for Discrimination
Driving on NE 163rd Street in North Miami Beach, you can't help but notice that several shopping centers contain sex shops that boldly proclaim their wares. And for 22 years, city officials long ignored a local law that prohibited three strip clubs from serving alcohol alongside naked dancers. Anyone visiting the city would think North Miami Beach is comfortably in touch with human sexuality.
But now that one of those establishments is catering to a mostly homosexual clientele and changed its name to Swinging Richards, North Miami Beach suddenly has decided it's time to crack down on erotic adult entertainment. That decision could end up costing city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees and a barrage of bad press.
Last week, the owner of Swinging Richards sued the city in federal court alleging that North Miami Beach officials are discriminating against the club because of its name and because it features all-nude male dancers. City Attorney Darcee Siegel notified Swinging Richards that the city would begin enforcing its law banning booze sales at fully nude strip clubs on May 16. Siegal was out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment, while Mayor George Vallejo and City Manager Lyndon Bonner did not return two phone calls.
Councilwoman Barbara Kramer says she couldn't comment specifically on Swinging Richards, but she believes the city should also apply the law to Dean's Gold and G5ive, the two strip clubs featuring nude female dancers. "If that is the direction the city is going, then of course it has to be enforced against everybody," she says. At least one resident agrees.
Mubarak Kazan fired off an email to Bonner pointing out that Dean's Gold and G5ive should also be put on notice. "You are the city manager of our city and should stop these businesses from breaking our laws and not enabling them to do otherwise," Kazan wrote.
According to Swinging Richards' lawsuit, the city grandfathered the club's predecessor "Miami Gold" and the other adult entertainment venues when the law banning liquor sales and nudity in the same place was enacted in 1989. Five years later, the city amended the law to include other prohibitions, but again the three strip clubs were protected, the complaint argues. But when the new owner -- who owns a male strip club also called Swinging Richards in Atlanta -- bought the space and changed the name, city officials have been trying to find any way to shut it down.
North Miami Beach blogger Stephanie Kienzle says she was told by a city official that all three strip clubs have been notified to stop selling liquor alongside naked dancers. However, she says the city is "opening a can of worms."
"The clubs have been there forever," she says. "The city can't object to renewing their business licenses because the city doesn't like the name or what they do in there. North Miami Beach doesn't need the aggravation this lawsuit will bring."