OCTOBER 9, 2013


I must begin by apologizing. 

I have wanted for some time to write about the gentrification process that has been going on in Wynwood, but have been sidetracked by other stories, and as a result when an item was introduced at the last Commission meeting about increasing the number of liquor licenses in the area from 25 to 40, I thought it important enough to stand up and ask some questions of Francisco Garcia, the Planning Director.

My first concern, and a concern that I think should alarm a lot of people, is how does something this important get handled this way?

Francisco Garcia, the Planning Director stated that there was “a demand” for more liquor licenses being issued, but neither during the time that this was discussed before the Commission, or since has he provided me with a single piece of paper that supports that claim, including any of the supposed applications for those liquor licenses that he claimed were turned down, and certainly no documentation involving any independent analysis of the area and whether a need for additional licenses really exists.

Furthermore, Commissioner Sarnoff made an interesting observation during the discussion that there are business owners with licenses who have not activated them, which would, regardless of the number, increase the actual number of businesses selling liquor in the area once they are activated.

So, the big question that still has not been answered is one of demand?  By whom?  Who wants more liquor licenses and why wasn’t that information provided? Unless of course, such a demand is artificially being created on behalf of a handful of property owners by Francisco Garcia and the Planning Department as a way to increase the value of their properties.

The creation of 15 new liquor licenses in what constitutes a relatively small neighborhood within the City of Miami without there being any public hearings or community involvement I find astounding, just like I find it astounding that after all the twists and turns that were taken to create a Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID), David Collins, the Executive Director of that District was nowhere to be found when this item came up!

Why wasn’t he present at the Commission meeting?  This is clearly the first, and most significant issue that’s arisen within the District since David Collins got his job!

Then there are all of the issues about just what Wynwood is, and what it is going to become, and as part of that question, who are the people who are dealing behind the scenes to further their agenda, perhaps against the best interests of both the rest of the Wynwood folks, and the city at large.

Here is a map that I was able to get as the result of the public records request I made at the Commission meeting.  I haven’t gotten anything else, because I suspect that there were never any independent studies conducted about the impact of what 15 more liquor licenses would mean to that District, or the justification, beyond the fact that the city decided that having given away the previous 25 licenses it seemed like a good idea to give even more licenses away.

You can see that the overwhelming number of the current licenses were either issued to buildings on, or nor more than 1 block away from NW 2nd Avenue.

NW 2nd Avenue is only major street in the District, and even though there are efforts to create more retail shops, the area currently, and certainly for the near future does not generate much foot traffic either during the day, or during most weekday evenings, and I say that as someone who passes through Wynwood on a regular basis week in and week out. 

If Panther Coffee were to close, I would argue that almost all of the daily foot traffic along NW 2nd Avenue would go away as well.

In addition, those of you who go to the monthly Wynwood Art Walk, know just how difficult it is to find parking if you show up after about 6 PM, so imagine if this area were turned into a major restaurant/club District.

And keep in mind that this area will be in direct competition with Mid-Town and the Design District for patrons to their restaurants and clubs.  I know this might surprise some folks, but there are only a finite number of folks who go out and eat on a regular basis, and go to clubs, and most of them, don’t make it a nightly habit to do either, even if they are rich and idle.

Parking is a big question mark for this area.  Currently there are several large empty lots that serve as parking lots, and the big question is what is the intent of the owners of those lots?

Do they plan on building parking garages?  Do they plan on creating more restaurants and bars? Those are not insignificant questions that should be asked and answered before any decision is made about liquor licenses, or other city financed and sponsored decisions are made.

It continues to be a real problem under the Regalado administration  that decisions like this are being made ad hoc, without input or effort to reach out to the community - the folks who lived and live in Wynwood before all this gentrification process began in this case - to solicit information, or even communicate what it is that is going to happen to their neighborhood.

You can bet your sweet ass that Francisco Garcia would never have waltzed into the Commission meeting and stated that the city was going to issue 15 new liquor licenses for the Coconut Grove Business District like he did in this instance.

He’d have had his head handed to him by a bunch of irate Grovites who would have stormed City Hall as soon as they found about it.

I am indebted to Dr. Marcos Feldman, who’s PhD dissertation on Wynwood: The Role of neighborhood Organizations in the Production of Gentrifable Urban Space: The Case of Wynwood, Miami’s Puerto Rican Barrio, has been a valuable document of insights and information about how the Wynwood Cafe District came to be created, and how the area was divided politically between District 2 and District 5 to minimize the ability of the locals from joining forces to create a voting block capable of fighting off the developers.

And of course one cannot overlook the role that Commissioner Michelle “Date Rape” Spence-Jones played in doing one of her patented ‘I’m Here Looking Out For My People,” performances from the Commission dais, before selling everyone out faster than Luis Cabrera’s half-brother got a job with the city.  It can all be found on pages  259-264 of the the  above dissertation.

So, the big question at this week’s Commission meeting will be to watch and see who puts on the knee pads to give certain property owners in Wynwood a special City Commission blowjob, because the allocation of 15 more liquor licenses inside of the Wynwood Cafe District doesn’t make any rational sense from an urban planning perspective, but it makes perfect sense if you want to radically change to makeup of that District and in the process make sure that a couple rich folks get even richer by giving them the opportunity to cash in by securing these licenses.

It’s Miami, Bitches!



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