Made in Miami in Violation of Fire Code and Other Local Regulations
Tuesday night’s City Council meeting started with a controversial application during the work session.
Made in Miami is a bar and bistro on Harding Avenue, off of Main Avenue and one block from the intersection with Clifton Avenue. It’s in a mixed-use neighborhood, with businesses situated close to Main and residential housing further down Harding. Owner Edinson Diaz was present, seeking approval for an entertainment license. This license is required for any business that wants to have live entertainment, including a disc jockey.
Thomas Egan, standing in for City Attorney Matt Priore, asked a series of basic questions about the business. Diaz testified that he opened Made in Miami in December 2022. The occupancy limit, according to the posted fire code, is 86 people but he said that he has seating for 93. When Egan questioned him on exceeding the permitted occupancy Diaz responded, “We don’t use all the bar stools.” Diaz also did not include his 20 employees in the count and pleaded ignorance about it being a violation.
Diaz admitted that he had not done anything specifically to limit the sound that escapes his bar but does employ a security company, addressing two of the attorney’s concerns. Security guards check IDs and search everyone who enters, Diaz said. Made in Miami closes at midnight most nights but is open until 2:30 on Fridays and Saturdays. Diaz was seeking permission to have a DJ present on Thursdays through Sundays. He testified that he’s never had any kind of entertainment there, though his website advertises “live entertainment.”
As the floor was opened to the public for comments, a woman stood to address the council. Patricia lives on Harding and said that, since Made in Miami opened, the neighborhood just hasn’t been the same. Music is extremely loud until 3 in the morning, and when patrons leave at the end of the night, they are loud and often disorderly. “Kids live on this block,” she said, and then she reminded the council that there was a shooting there in June. It was nearly 3 a.m. when four people were shot and wounded at the bar; thankfully there were no fatalities reported. Patricia asked the council to deny the license, saying, “It’s not for Clifton.”
When City Manager Nick Villano asked about the night of the shooting, Diaz said that he had entertainment there that night, despite not having a license for it. He claimed that he misunderstood and thought that he was permitted to have entertainment once he filled out the application and said, “This is my first business.” Villano then said that there are two outstanding violations on that property from the Building Department. Diaz attempted to explain, saying that he was given until the 30th to address a water problem which is causing ceiling tiles to fall. There is a second outstanding penalty for not having all necessary inspections completed and together, those violations represent $4,000 in fines.
Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula also addressed Diaz, taking him to task for initially lying about not having entertainment in the club. She asked him how many times he’d had a DJ there, aside from the night of the shooting. “A few more times than that,” Diaz answered. After Sadrakula pressed him for a more specific answer, he admitted to having one “Almost every other week.” Sadrakula also expressed concerns that he does not have active noise-reduction in place and Diaz said that he walks outside to the parking lot next to his building and cannot hear anything. If he does, he lowers the music.
In an unusual move, Councilwoman Rosemary Pino, instead of questioning Diaz, went through his application and offered evidence to counter some of her colleagues’ objections. She led him through testimony on several points, questioned the objectivity of the neighbor who came to speak, and called his failure to follow the law “growing pains” as a new business owner.
Councilman Tony Latona asked how late music is typically allowed in a mixed-use area with residences. Mayor Ray Grabowski said that typically, music is limited to Thursday-Saturday until 1 a.m. Other venues are not permitted to have live entertainment on Sundays, he said, and he was not inclined to grant Diaz’s request for that day. Pino again came to the applicant’s defense, saying that Sunday brunches were a popular event and a DJ would be good for his business. Grabowski was firm in not wanting to make an exception for Made in Miami because it would not be fair to other businesses. Pino then made a motion for conditional approval for three months, excluding Sundays.
With Councilman Bill Gibson sick and Councilwoman Lauren Murphy recovering from her fifth round of chemotherapy, there were only five voting members present. Councilman Joe Kolodziej said that Diaz should fix the various issues first and voted no to Pino’s motion. Sadrakula agreed with him, saying to Diaz, “You have knowingly violated the law.” Latona, Pino, and Grabowski all voted yes but since four affirmative votes were needed, the motion failed and the application for an entertainment license was denied.
Kolodziej, recognizing that there was a majority in favor and acknowledging that it failed in part because two of his colleagues were absent, made a new motion. Diaz should “get his house in order first,” Kolodziej said and motioned to give him a month to address the concerns and approve an entertainment license for November and December only, after which time the council would reevaluate. Sadrakula remained unconvinced but Diaz got the needed four votes.
According to several Yelp reviews, Made in Miami has had not only a DJ but also costumed dancers as live entertainment…all while not having the appropriate entertainment license. Several reviewers also mentioned hookah, warning that the “whole place is under a cloud.” Smoking indoors is illegal in New Jersey with very few exceptions, none of which would apply to this business. Many reviewers also commented on the very loud music, likening it to what you’d expect at a club.
City Council will meet again on Tuesday, October 3rd for their work session at 6:30 p.m. and the regular/public session at 8:00.