A new Miami-Dade business run by a local elected official brands itself as “upscale” and “discreet,” features co-ed showers and advertises young women in seductive poses wearing very little. The strategy behind Flirts: updating what co-owner Geraldo Rodriguez calls a dated image of “swingers clubs.”
“It’s an open-minded, lifestyle nightclub,’’ said Rodriguez, who was elected two years ago to both Miami-Dade’s Republican Executive Committee and the county’s zoning board in Westchester. “We don’t want to say it's a swingers club. That's not what we are. That's back in the ’80s.”
Men wanting to join Flirts pay about $150 for a 60-day membership. For women, it’s about $20, Rodriguez said. It costs between $45 and $85 at the door, as well, though the 15 private rooms (equipped with a queen-sized bed, nightstand, wastebasket and hand sanitizer) are free.
The No. 4 rule at the Flirts club is “NO JOKING ABOUT PROSTITUTION,” according to a document received by the Herald and confirmed by Rodriguez. Flirts won’t be for prudes. The rules note: “You agree that you are not offended by nudity, adult themes or sexual situations/activities.”
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Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade, emailed Friday to say Rodriguez was dropped from the membership roster of the local Executive Committee sometime after the spring of 2013. “I have no recollection of this person ever volunteering or being involved in the Miami Dade GOP or any Republican campaigns,” Diaz wrote. Rodriguez “was removed from the REC for failure to attend any meetings, so I don't think it would even be accurate to refer to him as a ‘GOP activist.’”
Rodriguez confirmed he has not been to the executive committee’s meetings, and that he is “probably not” a member anymore. Election records on file with Miami-Dade show he was elected unopposed to represent District 24 in August 2012.
Flirts, to be housed in a former shoe warehouse in the 8800 block of Southwest 132nd Street, faces some regulatory hurdles before it can open. County records show Miami-Dade inspectors ordered the renovation shut down in February, since Flirt hadn’t obtained a permit for the work. An electronic notation from Friday said “work continued” after the shut-down order, and showed a $500 fine issued for the property.
Rodriguez, a partner in the business opening Flirts, said a building permit has been filed and that he expects a July opening. And while his business faces sanctions from the county’s zoning arm at the same time he sits on a zoning board, Rodriguez said there’s no overlap between his roles as business owner and volunteer office holder. Flirts sits in the Kendall zoning district, outside of the territory governed by the Westchester panel that includes Rodriguez.
Rodriguez cited the success of Miami Velvet — listed as “Florida’s largest on premise Swingers Club!” on its website — to support the concept behind Flirts. He said he’s hoping for 1,000 members by the end of the year, and double that in 2015.
Rodriguez, 50, describes himself as a part-time club promoter and the full-time operations manager at the New Horizons Community Mental Health Center. He is running unopposed for a second two-year term on the Westchester Community Council, which essentially functions as a Miami-Dade zoning board for the area. The qualifying deadline for Miami-Dade candidates has passed.
His Community Council seat is a non-partisan post. Rodriguez said he doesn’t see a conflict between his political side and his Flirts venture.
“I’m a Republican, but I’m a new Republican,’’ he said. “I believe in the rights of gays and lesbians. What people do behind closed doors is their business.”
This post was updated to include a statement from Miami-Dade’s Republican chairman that Rodriguez no longer serves on the party’s local committee.