Developer Avra Jain, whose company has revived historic properties with bars and motels along Biscayne Boulevard, says it’s time to bring back the speakeasy.
As a part of that quest, GD 7700 Property Investment LLC made a request for an exception to permit an alcohol service establishment including outdoor dining in an individually designated historic structure commonly known as the Gold Dust Motel, at 7700 Biscayne Blvd.
The city’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board on April 5 unanimously approved the request, with several conditions.
Ms. Jain said, “I’m here because the speakeasy needs to be brought back to life, and that’s what I’m asking for.”
Ms. Jain purchased the property a few years ago and has repaired and restored the site.
Attorney Ian Bacheikov, on behalf of Ms. Jain, told the board: “We are here to right a wrong.”
He said the speakeasy was a preexisting alcohol service establishment on the property. In November 2018, the preservation board designated the property as a locally designated historic resource, and Ms. Jain believed that vote included all prior uses.
However, because the formal resolution granting the historic status didn’t specifically mention the bar/lounge, city code enforcement had it shut down, he said.
A city report says the property on the northwest corner of Northeast 77th Street and Biscayne Boulevard is 33,493 square feet.
“The Gold Dust opened its doors in 1957 offering what were top-notch accommodations for a motel at the time. This included unique amenities such as an on-site cocktail lounge, coffee shop, conference room, pool and dock.
“This application seeks an Special Certificate of Appropriateness granting an exception as … to clarify that the cocktail lounge is a historic use that should be protected and preserved in conjunction with outdoor dining,” the staff report says.
Several residential neighbors addressed the board and objected to the proposal, complaining of loud noise and music, trespassing, drunkenness, criminal activity and drug use, littering, and spillover parking blocking private driveways and residential streets.
Two other nearby residents supported the speakeasy, saying the business is an asset to the neighborhood.
An official with the Palm Grove neighborhood homeowner’s association credited Ms. Jain with being open to dialog about activity and uses on the property, and she said the issues can be worked out.
Some conditions written into the resolution approving the bar and outdoor dining are designed to help avoid some of the problems neighbors cite. Conditions include:
■The Alcohol Service Establishment Use shall be operated at all times with due regard for the character of the surrounding area.
■A parking plan shall be reviewed and approved pursuant to the provisions of Miami 21.
■Any noise generated on site shall conform to Chapter 36 of the City Code noise regulation. This would include the hours of operation for any amplified music or other sound making devices in any of its outdoor spaces. Any concerns or complaints related to noise nuisance will be addressed and resolved immediately.
■If the proposed Alcohol Service Establishment is within 200 feet of any residential use, a noise attenuation plan that addresses how noise will be controlled shall be required, especially in the case of outdoor uses.
■Per the City Code, no loitering or drinking outside of the Alcohol Service Establishment shall be permitted at any time.
■Alcohol service shall be limited to Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Sundays noon to 3 a.m.
■The property shall comply with all building code regulations and not have any open code violations.
■Within six months of issuance of a certificate of use for the speakeasy, a covenant acknowledging and agreeing to comply with all the terms shall be recorded with the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts. The agreement shall run with the land and be binding on subsequent owners. The agreement with the conditions must be submitted to the Department of Planning and the Office of the City Attorney for approval.
■Special event holder-promoters will be required to give advance notice to abutting property owners of special events.
Ms. Jain assured the board she and her team would work to iron out any issues with neighbors.
“Those challenges cited by neighbors, we’ve worked on those at our other properties (to remedy problems) and we’re willing to do this,” Ms. Jain said.
“We will do all we can to encourage them (tenants, event organizers) to do the right thing,” she added.
Ms. Jain’s The Vagabond Group LLC is a real estate development firm with decades of experience, specializing in adaptive reuse and historic preservation. Notable projects include the iconic Vagabond Hotel in the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District and The Miami River Inn in East Little Havana.