Restaurants sue after Miami Beach denies sidewalk permits

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Two restaurants are suing Miami Beach after being denied permits to have sidewalk seating, part of a crackdown the city says is aimed at businesses that don’t follow regulations.

Tapelia and Ole Ole allege that the city's new ordinance, passed in March, is too vague and allows City Manager Alina Hudak to deny permits for past violations, bad online reviews or any other criteria she chooses, the Miami Herald reported.

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The city recently denied 13 sidewalk permit applications. The denials cannot be appealed and the businesses cannot reapply for a year. Some of the regulations violated include a failure to disclose actual prices on menus or whether tips are included on the check, hawking to passersby and putting up outdoor boards listing specials.

“We are cleaning up our city,” Deputy City Attorney Rosenwald wrote in a statement. “A new annual sidewalk café permit is a privilege that the city gives to its best operators, and the city code invests the city with the discretion to decide which operators are meeting the city’s goals for the sidewalk café program, after considering suggested criteria.”

But Gabriela Hernandez, the manager who oversees Tapelia and Ole Ole, said the restaurants are being punished by an overzealous city and that they will be forced to close without the permits. That would cost 100 people their jobs, she said.

“This is the Thanksgiving gift the city is giving 100 families,” Hernandez said. She said about 90% of their revenue is from sidewalk tables, which allow customers to people-watch along the open-air mall.

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