Wynwood Bar Owners Claim That Cops and Downtown Clubs Are Conspiring Against Them

Categories: News

Bar Fight.jpg
photo illustration Miche Ratto
The "blowjob shots" were just beginning. It was after 3 a.m., and Shots Miami was living up to its name. Hundreds of customers sucked down slugs of brightly colored booze -- some from between each other's legs. All night long, partiers had flocked to the neon-painted bar on NW 23rd Street to don costumes and play drinking games. Like the rest of Wynwood, Shots was booming.

Amid the revelry, no one paid much attention to two men sidling up to the bar. They were clean-cut, in their 30s, and dressed in jeans and button-down shirts. After checking their watches, they ordered a pair of Red Stripes.

Moments later, Shots owner Oscar Zapata glanced at the surveillance cameras in his office and saw squad cars pull up. The 31-year-old raced outside. Cops were everywhere, pushing patrons out. When Zapata explained he was one of the owners, police slapped handcuffs on him and sat him next to the three bartenders who had served the undercover officers their beers. Zapata was hauled to jail, where he spent 15 hours -- all for selling booze at 3:10 a.m.

See also:
- City of Miami Cracking Down in Wynwood, Strictly Enforcing 3 A.M. Last Call
- Cops Arrest Six For Illegal Gambling Machines, Mistake Gramps' RoboCop Game For Maquinita

Zapata and his bartenders weren't the only ones busted. Eleven other Wynwood bar owners or employees were arrested in February and March during Operation Dry Hour, when cops raided or inspected 17 establishments. Half a dozen were shut down. At least one has yet to reopen.

To Wynwood's bar owners, the crackdown was a strategic assault against the up-and-coming neighborhood arranged by their competitors -- the 24-hour downtown clubs. It's more than an idle conspiracy theory: Those megaclubs have a cozy relationship with police thanks to a half-million bucks they've paid to off-duty officers for security in the past two years, not to mention political clout with Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

"This whole operation isn't about safety; it's about pursuing certain clubs," says Aaron Goldstein, whose club, Villa 221, was shut down by police. "The entertainment district is behind it. But fuck it. If Space and Mekka want to bully everybody out of the game, they are going to get an eye-opener."

Those downtown clubs, though, counter that they just want their competitors to play by the rules. Miami police, citing illegal all-night warehouse parties, argue that Wynwood needs reining in.

"Wynwood is out of control," says Michael Slyder, Mekka's co-owner. "The law is the law. It's black-and-white."

One things is clear: Wynwood's wild days are over. The neighborhood that made its name with edgy, all-night partying suddenly must deal with a new reality. And it's not yet clear whether it will survive the shock.

Twenty-three years ago, the neighborhood faced much different problems. Then mostly poor and Puerto Rican, Wynwood exploded into flames and riots December 3, 1990, after Miami police officers were acquitted of fatally beating local drug dealer Leonardo Mercado.

Over the past decade, however, developers led by SoBe savior Tony Goldman bought empty warehouses and invited in art galleries. Art Basel's satellite fairs brought investors. In 2008, the first fancy restaurant, Joey's, moved in. Then came graffiti murals, bars, gentrification, and the ever-increasing madness of Second Saturday Art Walk.
By 2012, Wynwood was again exploding -- not with riots but with crowds of rich and hip visitors. The New York Times even christened it "the next Meatpacking District," after the swanky Manhattan neighborhood.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

o wow total disgusting corruption!  The cops who established a relationship with that fake kiss leader of MEDA?MEKKa are actually favoring these drug clubs. MEkka should have been shut down 50 times corruption!  Does the city of Miami really want to align themselves with MEKKA and Meda what does that tell us business owners?  Prediction just to make the corruption look less obvious the miami police will do a sting on MEKKa fully warning them first.   What a joke. I could see the city being interestd in or taking sides of maybe say nicer clubs but not obvious crack clubs that are so far up sarnoffs but.  Please tell me sarnoff  sees right thru this MEDA group. please tell me Sarnoff is JUST and takes everything into consideration and does whats right for the city and fair for all the business and most importantly safest for the citizens. The city lured guys like Luis Puig in the downtown area with  24 hour licenses but mission accomplished.  Downtown is beautiful and flurishing.  Great Job guys now get rid of the trash...mekka..ephohria..24 hour licenses daily.


I would never go to Space or Mekka - dowtown. Not my crowd. 

Wynwood is colorful, laid back, down to earth, with locals. Great alternative to the beach and other areas.  

The officials/police officers/fire department/inspectors etc are all picking on these smaller businesses, they even go as far as telling them they want to close thier business down but we legally can't.  They are harassing smaller business bullying them to close down.  The pressure is coming from somewhere. Why, because they are a threat to these terrible downtown clubs?  There is no comparison. Two different worlds. 

The bullying and harrassment needs to stop! Wynwood business owners need to speak up. These business owners work too hard and now they have to deal with this?!

Downtown club owners etc can spend all the money they want on currupt officials trying to hold Wynwood down.  Wynwood is taking over without affecting the downtown crowd and so glad it is.

So happy to read an article on this FINALLY.  Hopefully it will shine some more light to the situation going on in Wynwood.


Ain't nobody got time for cover charges, lines & all that downtown mess, Wynwoods where its at!


The truth of the matter is the Downtown scene is dead & Wynwood is now the happening place in Miami. The other megaclubs are not for everyone, they cater to a much different scene & its unfair to the customers who just want a more laid back, bar approach to have their drinks. Its clear this is all politics and a corrupt system to force out business from Wynwood. I, for one, would rather go to Wynwood for a good time and drinks at a friendly bar, than head into Downtown to be harassed by the bum where I am parking my car and pay double the price for a drink.


Sounds like some bars aren't paying off the cops while others are.


Prediction:  the follow-up story will have a headline that reads "Operation Dry Hour busted for accepting contributions to target the new kids down the block"

Daniel Diaz
Daniel Diaz

Jorge Marquez Ana Maria Alonso Megan Burgin Kristina Herrero

Craig Chester
Craig Chester

So bush league to sneak attack them like that. What is the harm in warning them beforehand? Typical Miami shit. This is why so many people hate the place.

Dirk DeSouza
Dirk DeSouza

"We're upset that we got caught breaking City law" - said no one because it's less sexy

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault