Grutman, Soffer’s Story nightclub sues Miami Beach over alcohol ban
Complaint alleges commissioners who voted in favor of 2 a.m. stop to liquor sales clearly were targeting club
By: Lidia Dinkova
Story nightclub in Miami Beach at 136 Collins Avenue with Groot Hospitality's David Grutman, Jeffrey Soffer, and Mayor Dan Gelber (Google Maps, Groot Hospitality, City of Miami Beach, Getty)
For the third time in as many years, Miami Beach faces a lawsuit over commissioners’ attempts to curb the city’s anything-goes party image.
Popular South Beach nightclub Story, owned by David Grutman’s Groot Hospitality and real estate mogul Jeffrey Soffer, sued the city over a commission vote to roll back alcohol sale hours in the South of Fifth neighborhood from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The ordinance makes exceptions for venues with a capacity of up to 100 customers. The owners allege the carve-out shows that Story is being illegally singled out and targeted, according to Story’s Miami-Dade Circuit Court lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
Story, a 17,000-square-foot club at 136 Collins Avenue, is likely the biggest neighborhood venue, offering 60 VIP tables and five bars.
“Carving out large exceptions [is] designed to permit any business other than plaintiff [Story] to continue to sell alcohol,” according to court filings by Story affiliate Amnesia International.
Some “commissioners openly discussed selecting arbitrary criteria that would operate to put plaintiff out of business and spare other establishments from” enforcement.
The suit asks the court to stop the city from enforcing the booze ban, which is set to take effect at 2 a.m. on Monday.
In its lawsuit, Story claims it does most of its business starting at midnight. That means the rollback allows the club to really operate for two hours, allegedly impacting hundreds of employees’ livelihoods. The Story building has been a nightclub for decades, though in previous years it operated under the monikers Opium Garden and Amnesia.
The lawsuit is the latest skirmish pitting commissioners’ desire for the city to shed its party image against popular establishments that oppose such policies, arguing they will have severe impacts on their business.
In 2021, the Clevelander South Beach, a hotel and restaurant at 1020 Ocean Drive, won its suit against the city over a vote to stop alcohol sales at 2 a.m. rather than the usual 5 a.m.
The city’s ban was temporary and was only for the entertainment district from Collins Avenue to Ocean Drive, between Fifth and 15th streets.
And last year, the Clevelander and Story joined forces to sue the city over another booze hours rollback during spring break. They also won a temporary injunction last year.
Story’s latest complaint cites commissioners’ statements during their vote last Wednesday that allegedly show they singled out Story, and even went against the advice of the city attorney.
“As your lawyers, our recommendation is the ordinance without exceptions, as that’s
more likely to prevail in court,” City Attorney Rafael Paz said at the meeting.
Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez pushed for the exemption for smaller bars: “That way, it covers certain and local watering holes, and you eliminate Story, which, the
nightclubs in the neighborhood .. seem to be the primary problem.”
Plus, she added, Story has other venues its employees could move to. Story is a sister club to the famous LIV nightclub at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel.
Miami Beach didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest lawsuit.
Sean Burstyn, an attorney for Story, said commissioners “openly picked winners and losers” with the ordinance.
“If the city can enforce an openly targeted and punitive ordinance against one of its constituents without any record basis for doing so,” he said via email, “ then no tenant or landowner is safe in Miami Beach.”