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North Miami Beach rejects later closing time for strip club

A divided North Miami Beach City Council on Tuesday rejected a strip club’s request to extend closing time from 4 to 6 a.m.

The 5-2 vote means that Black Diamonds, 17450 Biscayne Blvd., will have to wait a year before asking again.

Currently, two other North Miami Beach strip clubs, Dean’s Gold and GFive, are allowed to operate until 6 a.m.

In 1994, the council passed an ordinance restricting adult establishments to the city’s industrial district. However Dean’s Gold and SMG Entertainment, owner of the former Swinging Richards, which is now Black Diamonds, were allowed to stay on Biscayne Boulevard because they predate the law.

Councilwoman Marlen Martell said any strip club on Biscayne Boulevard does not fit in with the council’s plans for the area.

“We want to bring our visioning to the city more than anything in the world and I think it would be better for all of you if you got a developer to take over that place,” said Martell.

Fabiana Sibilia, co-owner of Black Diamonds, said without the two extra hours, her club will be in financial trouble.

“We’ve put in nearly a half a million dollars in upgrades indoors and outside and now basically we’re going to be out of business. People start coming in from 12 to 2 and the business really starts picking up after that,” she said.

More than half the council denounced efforts by Black Diamonds to apply for an extension saying that the club owners had not “earned the privilege” of obtaining a late-night extension.

Police Chief J. Scott Dennis said the police went to the club in response to an anonymous tip that the club was open past 4 a.m. on Dec. 1.

“It appears to me from the report that upon the officer’s arrival, the club was still open past the 4 o’clock point and upon speaking with the staff, the club immediately shut down. We do not know if there were patrons inside or if there were actual sales going on,” said Dennis.

Black Diamonds showed the council its internal records indicating that the club’s cash register closed at 3:58 a.m. that night – before the legally required time of 4 a.m.

Jimmy Sibilia, head of security said they invited the police to come in to show them the registers but the officers declined.

“There’s always customers in the parking lot after the club closes, ” said Sibilia. He said the club had a popular guest performer that night, and the staff was waiting for customers to leave the parking area before escorting her out.

City Manager Ana Garcia told the council the police never went inside to verify if club was actually selling liquor.

Councilman Frantz Pierre pointed out that numerous anonymous calls had instigated several police visits and only one had resulted in an incident report.

“We are assuming that the club was open when the cash register receipts show very clear, black-and-white they were closed. I think we’re just accusing without proof,” said Pierre.

Mayor George Vallejo, who voted with Pierre to approve the license extension, said he thought it was unfair to accuse the club of operating illegally based on unfounded, anonymous calls.

“I have the same process with every one of these late night clubs: if they follow the rules, if they do what they’re supposed to do, then I don’t have a problem with voting and allowing it,” said Vallejo.

Councilman Anthony DeFillipo was unconvinced.

“I think it’s time our council take a stand, as the fathers and mothers of our city: What is best for our community? ” DeFillipo said.

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