A group of Ocean Drive businesses controlled by the Nakash family has filed suit to force the City of Miami Beach to reopen Ocean Drive which has been closed to vehicular traffic since last May. Various LLCs which own the Hotel Edison, Hotel Breakwater, The Villa, Casa Casuarina, Hotel Victor, and Hotel Ocean along with a number of properties leased to restaurants are the Plaintiffs in the action filed with the Eleventh Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. The Nakash family businesses include real estate and Jordache Enterprises.
The suit claims, the City “has unilaterally declared that it will permanently close Ocean Drive to automobile traffic, which closure will have a devastating impact on the hotels, restaurants and other businesses fronting Ocean Drive, including those of the Plaintiffs.”
The City closed Ocean Drive to vehicle traffic from 5th to 15th during the initial stages of the COVID pandemic to give residents the ability to get out and walk and bike on the street during the lockdown. When businesses were allowed to gradually reopen, the City launched its Restaurant Recovery Program, providing outdoor dining spaces so restaurants could open safely.
The pandemic and closure of the street for the recovery program coincided with the City’s long-term planning process for the future of Ocean Drive which has included discussions about the complete or partial pedestrianization of the street from 5th to 15th Streets. The Restaurant Recovery Program was initially supposed to end on September 30 but was extended through the end of this year while Commissioners continued to discuss the future configuration of the street, one more action, the suit claims, that shows the closure is no longer about COVID.
The suit notes what turned out to be a controversial reopening of one lane of traffic northbound on July 4 last year by then City Manager Jimmy Morales. Two weeks later, the City Commission directed Morales to fully close the street again. The lawsuit states, that while considering the resolution to close the street once more, “comments made by various City Commissioners made clear that the closure of Ocean Drive to automobile traffic no longer had anything to do with COVID-19.”
Ocean Drive has been a public road since 1913, according to the Court filing, when The Ocean Beach Realty Company formed by brothers J.N. Lummus and J.E. Lummus purchased property that included lots adjacent to what is now Ocean Drive and Lummus Park and dedicated “the streets, avenues, boulevards, drives and alleys” represented on the Plat, recorded with what is now Miami-Dade County, “to public use, including use by automobile traffic, which use was essential to the development of Miami Beach and sale of the lots created by the Plat.” That dedication, the Plaintiffs claim, “gave a right-of-access for automobiles to the owners and tenants of the lots abutting Ocean Drive, as well as the customers of those owners and tenants.”