Three months ago, Miami police sat down with the managers of an Upper East Side strip club and went over the legal limits of the enterprise: The hours they could remain open, who was allowed inside, and what the club could sell.
On Friday, at least 10 employees at the men’s club Wonderland in the city’s northeastern corner were arrested after a month-long sting, charged with crimes that included drug sales, selling liquor after hours, and prostitution.
“I told them we use undercovers. And I said we would take action,” said Miami Police Cmdr. Lazaro Ferro.
The investigation was sparked by a complaint that Wonderland at 7778 Biscayne Blvd. had been selling liquor well past 5 a.m., the time permitted under the club’s operating agreement.
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So, as promised, members of a task force called Operation Safe Club — made up of Miami cops, code enforcement and state alcohol and beverage officers — began paying visits.
Drinks were purchased well past 5 a.m., arrest affidavits show. Marijuana and cocaine were sold openly by employees, police said. And several strippers offered sexual favors — for a price.
“We engaged the girls in dialogue,” Ferro said. “Obviously, we never engaged them.”
Police said sex was offered in private rooms referred to in the club’s website as “Ultra Skybox Seats.” The private rooms can be hidden from public view by swanky dark blue velour curtains, Wonderland’s website shows.
The club’s website also boasts of recent enhancements to its 15,000 square feet, and the club offers gourmet meals and entertainment that includes viewing parties for football games and boxing matches.
Late Friday, Miami police released the names of seven employees who were arrested.
Manager Ryan Andrew Redding, 37, was charged with operating a club without a business tax receipt license. Marlon Rodriguez, 36, Rachel Oshinsky, 26, and Mauricio Schor, 35, were charged with selling alcohol after hours. Lorraine Porter, 18, was charged with selling cocaine and marijuana. The affidavit says Ivan Gonzalez, 28, was in possession of a controlled substance, and that Brent Polizon was charged with possessing marijuana.
Others were arrested by the state’s department of Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco, on charges ranging from prostitution to illegal cigarette sales.
Ferro, the downtown police commander, said his team started receiving tips that the club was selling liquor after hours about a month ago, and immediately took action. He said his team was able to purchase alcohol well past 5 a.m., buy marijuana and cocaine, and on several occasions were offered sex.
“They made buys and got to know the girls,” said Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa.
Miami-Dade County property records show the property is owned by Leroy Griffith’s Gayety Theatres. Griffith is the outspoken owner of Miami Beach’s Club Madonna, which Beach city leaders have tried to shut down for years. Griffith, though, does not run Wonderland; he leases the site.
State records show Wonderland is operated by a man named Carlos Tellez, who uses the company name At The Boulevard.
Wonderland spokeswoman Diana Rodriguez would not comment on the allegations and said the club was conducting its own investigation.
“The owners do not condone any illicit activities,” Rodriguez said, adding that they are not present during the club’s early-morning hours. She would not confirm who operated Wonderland.
The iconic site on Biscayne Boulevard, which sits in the middle of a massive neighborhood rebirth and just across the street from the old Immigration and Naturalization Services building, has been a number of different — all memorable — venues over the years.
Known for morphing with the times, its been a movie house, an X-rated theater, and a female and male strip club over the years.
Built in 1941, a high-time for bustling Biscayne Boulevard and its Miami Modern architecture, it was originally called the Boulevard Theater movie house. It closed in 1970. The last movie it showed: Patton.
Griffith bought it by the end of the decade, as Biscayne went into decline and drugs and prostitutes littered the street. He called it the Pussycat Theatre. A decade ago, as the gay population helped revitalize the down-trodden northern end of Miami and restaurants popped up and hotels were refurbished, Griffith again reimagined.
The plan this time: Open up a gay male strip club and call it The Boulevard Nightclub. The plan failed. Within a few years Griffith decided to lease the site and women were again dancing, this time in a club named Wonderland.
On Friday, Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said Wonderland’s permits were in order. Ferro said task force members were meeting with city attorneys and the manager to determine whether the city could revoke the club’s operating license until management proves its problems are behind it.
“Just until it gets cleaned up,” said Ferro. “This is not Operation Shutdown, this is Operation Safe Club.”