South Beach’s most iconic street erupted in a brouhaha after neighbors were angered by rumors that a strip club was moving into the neighborhood.
But the owner of the space on Ocean Drive, former rap artist Akinyele Adams, says he just wants to open a soul food restaurant. He feels residents have jumped to conclusions because he’s black and was formerly associated with the King of Diamonds strip club.
No business license has been granted for the space at the Netherland, a condo/hotel at 1330 Ocean Dr., and no document states that a nude bar is in the works. Still, rumors spreading through emails and hip-hop websites — including ones naming a different club, V-Live, and an unspecified location on Ocean Drive — have neighbors losing it faster than a stripper loses her top onstage.
During the weekend, Mayor Philip Levine posted on his Facebook page a letter from City Attorney Raul Aguila stating that someone had acquired naming rights for King of Diamonds and planned to open an establishment at the Netherland. Aguila notes that the city had previously issued a building permit for a restaurant with entertainment, and the building department issued a violation over improper construction that has since been resolved.
Aguila also wrote that the business operator has been told “adult entertainment establishments are not permitted at this premises” in accordance with city law.
When word started spreading Friday, neighbors down the street at the Il Villaggio quickly jumped to organize, sending out a notice for a meeting Monday afternoon where locals could discuss the business.
Members of the media and even some residents who RSVP’d were not allowed inside the meeting. About 40 people were admitted. Adams, the business owner, also was not allowed in. Standing outside ground-floor shops fronting the large condo building, he told reporters he “was just trying to clear the air.”
“This is not a gentlemen’s club,” he said. “Our employees are going to be fully clothed, like at any other restaurant around here.”
Adams, the former general manager of King of Diamonds, who was once part of a team that attempted to buy the club, said he was unfairly being stereotyped.
“I feel like this is just a modern-day lynching that’s happening here, and that’s the elephant in the room,” he said. “We’re just a black-owned establishment, and that’s what they can’t come to the realization with.”
City records show that “Akinyele” — no surname — requested a building permit earlier this year. By law, Adams couldn’t open a strip club even if that’s what he wanted to do. Despite the sexy locale, Miami Beach is not friendly to the strip club industry. The city’s zoning laws make it very difficult to open strip joints, and the only remaining club, which has been a mainstay for years, is Club Madonna on Washington Avenue. Much to the chagrin of its owners, that club can’t even serve alcohol under the city’s code.
On Monday, Aguila told the Miami Herald the city would close the Ocean Drive establishment if it operated as a strip club.
King of Diamonds management told the Herald it is not involved in any businesses on South Beach, but mentioned that a similar chain of gentlemen’s clubs plans to move in. V-Live, which has clubs in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and New Orleans, has started to advertise a South Beach location on social media. An Instagram account @vlivemiami had been scrubbed of any posts as of Monday morning, but an associated account posted a short video hyping a new club last week.
A brand ambassador for V-Live reached by the Herald who would only go by his Instagram username, @mr713films, said he didn’t have details but that V-Live was planning on opening soon on Ocean Drive.
Adams did not comment on whether he has a relationship with V-Live. Some hip-hop websites are reporting a partnership between King of Diamonds and V-Live will open the Ocean Drive spot.
The mere thought of a strip club on Ocean Drive sent South Beach residents into an uproar.
“Property owners should be outraged,” said Mitch Novick, owner of the Sherbrooke Hotel at Ninth Street and Collins Avenue. Novick has loudly decried the condition of South Beach’s entertainment district, complaining that he’s seeing more and more drunken fights, robberies and loud nuisances in recent years.
A city task force of residents and business owners developed recommendations for how to make Ocean Drive cleaner and safer, and commissioners approved a ban on alcohol sales at sidewalk cafes after 2 a.m., but Novick said the situation has not improved.