The North Miami community is facing a legal challenge of a special kind. City officials are suing their own town government because of an “illegal meeting”. No, this is not a lawsuit over a private meeting that could endanger the First Amendment. It’s a lawsuit about a little procedural detail that might endanger the fate of an entire business.
North Miami is now facing two lawsuits for the same matter. The problem lies with Sunny Isles Eatery, a private strip club that wants to sell drinks and asked for an alcohol license. The hiccup is that Sunny Isles Eater is located within 1,500 feet of an apartment complex, and zoning laws thus require the business to get a special approval from the Board of Adjustment.
On August 15, the Board voted down Sunny Isles Eatery’s liquor license 4-3. But since then, the local government changed drastically into a more libertarian-minded administration and when a new vote was called by the Adjustment Board, on September 20, Sunny Isles Eatery came as a victor with a 5-2 vote during the special hearing.
The purpose of the new vote was to state once and for all the reasons for turning down the variance. The change in the verdict was not expected, but still happened. Yet, city rules only allow a business to appeal in an appellate court up to 30 days after a vote. A variance application cannot be filed for a whole year if it has been denied by the Board.
Regin Monestime, the city’s attorney, justified the new vote because she felt reasons had not been stated the first time. Now, two lawsuits are being brought, while Sunny Isles Eatery is worrying about its own future.
The incident brings legitimate questions about the problems with city bureaucracy and its obstacles on the free market. To begin with, an appeal to a ruling should not be limited to 30 days. Small businesses might need more time to save enough money and afford an expensive lawsuit against an entire city government funded by taxpayers. Also, a new vote should not wait for as much as one year, especially when a new government has been installed.
But at the end of the day, the core of the problem is the very existence of the Board of Adjustment. Sunny Isles Eatery should not have to ask for the permission to sell alcohol. 1,500 feet is not only far enough from an apartment complex, this entire argument is irrelevant. How many families drink alcohol on a daily basis, without influencing young children? The mere fact of selling alcohol should not be regulated, as such licensing is a violation of the social contract between the people and the government, the latter serving only to protect property rights, not regulate them.
Odds are that the anti-Sunny Isles Eatery faction will win the lawsuits. It is understandable that city governments have rules that ought to be respected. We know way too well the terrible effects of a federal government that does not respect its constitution. But rules should not be made to hurt businesses, but rather to prevent governments from usurping power.