A recently opened gay club in Shorecrest has drawn the ire of local residents who believe it to be an illegal adult entertainment complex. The owner denies it, but the City of Miami has cited the business and opened an investigation.
The club in question is Tokyo Valentino, an after-hours lounge at 8330 Biscayne Blvd. Customers who pay the $10 admission fee can take advantage of some features common for any lounge — a dance floor and a game room with pool tables — but there is another part of the business that has drawn the attention of city officials and residents: private rooms and viewing booths. The viewing booths fit two people, while the rooms feature leather day beds and flat screen plasma TVs.
Owner Mike Morrison says that the booths and rooms are meant to be places where someone can “grab a movie and watch it with a friend.” While the club provides some films (mainly ones targeted at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender audiences, similar to content aired on Logo Channel), customers can also bring their own DVDS.
“If people want to bring adult movies to watch, I can’t stop them,” Morrison said.
Morrison denies running an adult club and says his business is an “after-hours gay and lesbian lifestyle lounge/nightclub,” just like Jamboree, a gay lounge a few blocks away on Biscayne Boulevard.
Some local residents, however, think otherwise. Just days after Tokyo Valentino opened, on the week of Jan. 23, a group of Shorecrest residents — both gay and straight — spearheaded a campaign asking the City of Miami to shut down the venue, arguing that it is an adult entertainment complex and doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood according to city code.
City of Miami zoning rules define an adult establishment as any business which offers adults-only goods or services, be they movies or “opportunities for experiences or encounters.” The regulations also state that an adult business must be at a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from any public park, school, or residential area.
The residents say the club indeed sells adult movies and that the video booths and private rooms incite promiscuous behavior.
“I’m all for people having their business, but there’s a place for everything,” said Brian Amezola, Shorecrest resident since 2005. “Having a place like that in between an elementary school and two churches is just not the place.”
The city has taken the side of the residents. Code Enforcement Director Sergio Guadix says the club was cited for illegally operating an adult-entertainment business on Feb. 6.
The club had passed initial inspection. City records show that the 5,800 square-foot property received a retail permit last September. On Jan. 13, the venue also passed final inspection by code enforcement.
Guadix said that at the time of the initial inspection in January, the club seemed to be a retail establishment, but that it had changed significantly by the time an inspector visited the club on Feb. 6 to follow-up on residents’ complaints.
The investigation is on-going. On Saturday night, a City of Miami code enforcement inspector accompanied by Miami police officers visited the club again but didn’t find anything in violation of code, according to Guadix. He said his inspectors will continue to “gather evidence against the property to take the case before the Code Enforcement Board.”
For his part, Morrison remains confident neither the city nor pressure from neighbors will be able to shut down his business.
“We took it to the attorney and he said: ‘Let them take it to court, they are not going to win,” Morrison said.
This post was produced in partnership with Open Media Miami.