Dueling videos: stolen towels vs. paint runoff
A simmering three-year feud over noise and crime between two of South Beach’s most outspoken business owners boiled over this week when each released surveillance footage intended to discredit the other.
The dueling attack videos, however, were not nearly as hot as the tempers. One involved dirty towels, the other a diluted stream of paint.
On Tuesday, the day before a crucial vote that would restrict the noise level coming out of Mango’s Tropical Cafe, owner David Wallack posted a video of Mitch Novick taking towels from a Mango’s bin in the lane behind the restaurant.
Novick, who owns the Sherbrooke Hotel at 901 Collins Ave., across the alley from the Ocean Drive nightclub, countered with his own video posting a day later. It showed him returning towels to the bin, then quickly switched to a shot of paint pouring from a nightclub drain into the street after a rainstorm.
Wallack released his video a half-day ahead of a crucial vote over whether to curb the decibel level coming from his club at 900 Ocean Drive. It didn’t sway the Miami Beach City Commission.
They voted to kill an exemption to a Miami Beach ordinance that allowed Mango’s and some other Ocean Drive clubs to blast music east toward the ocean as loud as they like. For the next four months, the clubs must follow the same rules as everyone else, with excessive noise levels extending no more than 100 feet. Then commissioners will re-visit the item and decide whether it should stand or whether adjustments are needed.
For several years, hotel owner Novick had complained of crime running rampant in South Beach. He blamed it on the noise coming from the clubs well into the morning and said the music attracts a bad element.
“I’m attributing the crime to the carnival-like atmosphere due to the noise that lures in all the riff-raff,” Novick told The Herald.
Not so, argued Wallack. It’s the affluence of his customers that attracts criminals, he insisted — a problem he said must be dealt with by police. “What attracts crime are the good people with money in their pockets who are our customers.”
The 58-second video taken by Wallack shows an alley that divides the two businesses. It begins with men moving beer in front of a blue car. Then, a shirtless Novick emerges from his hotel, crosses the alley and grabs some towels from the bin outside of Mango’s. Wallack called Miami Beach police. The department is reviewing the video to determine whether any charges are warranted.
“I was shocked and surprised he was stealing towels from the back of Mango’s,” said Wallack. “He’s a hypocrite.” Releasing the video, he said, “was to show the truth of this person.”
But Novick, who has known Wallack since Mango’s opened in 1991, said he doesn’t understand the big deal. He admitted that he had been taking those dirty towels for years — and returning them.
“I’d use them for spills or whatever, and I’d always put them back,” he said.
A day after Wallack released his video, Novick fired back with one of his own, a 53-second short taken July 20 filmed in the same alley. It shows him returning towels to Wallack’s bin, then switches to the flowing paint.
Wallack doesn’t deny that it came from Mango’s.
“We were doing roof work,” said Wallack. “A squall came through and it washed paint down the drain. It only lasted a few minutes.”
On Wednesday morning before the noise ordinance vote at Miami Beach City Hall, both men addressed the commission but did not exchange a word between themselves, though they have known each other for more than 25 years. Their rift reflects the tension of the city’s ongoing debate about how to deal with crime on one of the top tourist stretches in the country.
Said Wallack: “We’ve been butting heads since he started his vendetta against Ocean Drive three years ago. Things [between us] are not good right now.”
Countered Novick: “I’ve known David for decades. We’ve had these scuffles before. We’ve mended our fences, and now we’re having a scuffle again.”