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Lincoln Road Restaurants Suing Miami Beach Over Outdoor Dining Permits

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Tapelia and Ole Ole on Lincoln Road are suing the city of Miami Beach for denying their permits for outdoor dining.

In the 90-page lawsuit, the restaurants' ownership group, Lincoln Theatre, said it didn't know that past violations that were resolved or dismissed could cost them getting their permits renew.

As businesses that mostly operates outdoors, no sidewalk cafes mean the restaurants would have to close by the end of the month.

Jose Arenas, 75, is devastated by the news.

"I pass by, sit down. I enjoy so much. That's my house. Feels like a house here," said Arenas.

Arenas has been dining at Tapelia for 10 years, even following the restaurant to its Lincoln Road location.

"I come here every night. It feels like family," said Arenas. "I have never seen anything wrong here."

But the city disagreed and denied 13 South Beach businesses their permits to continue operating outdoor cafes under new criteria.

"The city doesn't want to approve the permit for next year of side walk cafe," said Rodrigo Salazar, one of Tapelia's managers. "They're basing on past violations and the worst is that they removed them in court. Makes no sense."

The denials can't be appealed and businesses can't reapply for a year. Many of the restaurants, like Tapelia, make 90% or more of their business from outdoor patrons.

"Basically, we're going to have to close," said Salazar.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Mark Samuelian said he fully supports the city manager in her decision and its part of the city's overall strategy to clean up the city and make it more attractive for locals to visit too.

"These businesses need to step up their game and stop the problem," said Samuelian, pointing out violations of various businesses for hawking/soliciting, improper signage and "bait and switch" – when customers think they're getting a special.

"We expect significantly reduced violations. We expect significantly lower calls to our code enforcement and police. And we expect not to see reviews where people say this place scammed me," said Samuelian.

The letter denying Tapelia's sidewalk cafe permit points to eight alleged violations from 2020 – one of them for hawking/soliciting. It also points to the owners' "prior history of sidewalk violations."

Salazar feels the punishment isn't fair and it's not worth costing so many people their jobs.

"We don't have hard liquor. It's like a family place. We close at 12. There's nothing dangerous here," said Salazar.

In the lawsuit, the restaurant owners said without the permit, they'd have to close by November 30.

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