After Opa-locka City Commission’s vote last Wednesday to close Klub 24 in the city, many of the strip club’s employees called the owners frantic about the possibility of being unemployed, according to the club’s attorney.
As news of the vote broke on social media, promoters and others affiliated with Klub 24 let followers know that their events were still on.
“All publicity is good publicity thanks for spreading the bad rumours [sic] klub24 on smash,” wrote Super Litt Saturdays promoter Dominic Johnson on Facebook.
The club employees about 100 people and provides gigs for promoters like Johnson.
By Monday, city and club representatives were in talks hoping to reach an agreement that would not strip the club of its Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, ostensibly shuttering the adult entertainment business.
Klub 24, which on some nights has a line stretching down the block, remained open as of press time on Tuesday, April 3.
But last Wednesday’s 3-2 vote to close the business is the result of two months of debate about how the 24-hour strip club opened on Jan.17 with a 90-day Temporary Certificate of Occupancy from the building director.
“I don’t believe anyone really has a problem with the actual establishment, but the fact that it circumvented our laws, and based upon law, it is operating illegally within our city,” said Commissioner Matthew Pigatt.
Klub 24 opened without the City Commission’s approval and the special exemption from the Planning Council required by Opa-locka law for an adult business. Depending on who you ask, the club also violates the city’s nudity, alcohol and theatrical laws.
The nightclub became a trending topic, a week after it opened. At the Jan. 24 meeting, Opa-locka building director, Esin Daniel Abia told the Commission that the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy was issued to give the business a grace period (Jan. 17 to April 20) to get the appropriate approvals.
Abia said the certificate was approved under the premise that the owners would renovate the previous Crabby’s Smokehouse location into a lounge, restaurant and cabaret until “they have enough money to go to the next stage,” as an adult entertainment business. As a cabaret, Klub 24 does not require a special exemption.
The commission voted unanimously then for the city manager to review the legitimacy of the process.
Since then, memos have been issued back and forth by the City Manager Ed Brown and City Attorney Vincent Brown about Klub 24’s right to operate in Opa-locka.
Both Browns disagree on the interpretation of the city’s codes on nudity and the sale of alcohol but agree that the strip club needed the special exemption to open. The city attorney recommended the establishment be closed while the city manager said it should live out the length of the occupancy certificate fearing legal retaliation.
Vice Mayor Joseph Kelley said he trusted the legal counsel of Vincent Brown and proposed the business be shut down at the March 28 meeting at the Hellen L. Miller Center.
“I always follow legal when it comes to things of this nature, and as it stands now according to him [Vincent Brown], they [Klub 24] are not there properly,” said Kelley. So, until they are, my opinion is they should be closed until they come into compliance.”
Mayor Myra Taylor, on the other hand, agreed with Ed Brown that closing Klub 24’s doors will open up the city, which has several cases pending against them, to another lawsuit.
Taylor voted against the closure before she urged Kelley to postpone making a decision on the issue.
Commissioner John Riley also voted against the item, saying he too is worried about the legal consequences.
Pigatt, Kelley and Commissioner Timothy Holmes voted in favor of halting Klub 24’s operations.
The vote to close the club was met with cheers from some residents.
Longtime Opa-locka resident Alvin Burke believes the city made the right decision and said another lawsuit would not make a big difference.
“We have 38 lawsuits, so this would be 39,” said Burke. “If he had done his due diligence then it would’ve been done the right way in the first place,” referring Eddie Dean, who applied for the license for Klub 24.
Dean, who has been trying to open the business in Opa-locka since December 2015, stormed out of the Hellen L. Miller center followed by the attorney representing the business, Robert H. Fernandez.
Building official Abia said the morning after Wednesday’s commission meeting, he had started to draft a “letter of intent” to withdraw the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, but he is holding onto it for now.
Fernandez too said he was focused on ending the debacle peacefully.
Fernandez and Dean, who is the operator of the club, spoke to the city attorney and set up a meeting for Monday morning at which all sides could tell their story, Fernandez said.
This is the second such meeting for the club; the first due process meeting took place last year with zoning official Gerald Lee and former City Manager Yvette Harrell, according to Abia.
Fernandez, Abia, the city attorney Vincent Brown, City Manager Ed Brown, Ethics Investigator Karl Ross and the business owners, Phillip Gori and Gregg Berger met at 10 a.m on April 2 at the city hall to discuss the future of the business in Opa-locka.
Both sides expressed their desire to resolve the matter without going to court.
“We are working with the city because it would be in the best interest of both parties to try to figure out a way to get this resolved without any unnecessary litigation,” said Fernandez. “We asked them to tell us what to do so that we can get into compliance.”
The attorney said that the strip club has obtained all of the necessary licenses from the city and state to meet all of the building and safety requirements, but the problem at hand is an Opa-locka zoning issue.
The attorney requested an extension of the April 20 Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, but Abia said that no deadline has been set so far.
“They have stated on record that they want to comply with all of the rules,” said Abia. “So I will watch closely to see what happens” and wait on instructions from City Manager Ed Brown.
The city manager and city attorney have to report back to the Commission and Oversight board for a final decision.
Neither Vincent Brown nor Ed Brown could be reached for comment.
This story was originally published April 4, 2018.