Miami commissioners to target pop-up nightclubs with hefty fines

MIAMI – Commissioner Joe Carollo said he is worried about Miami’s nightlife now including secretive pop-up clubs that operate illegally without an alcohol license.

On Thursday, Carollo pointed at pictures that he said showed a club’s “disgusting kitchen,” and a room with a small bed and a camera.

Commissioner Joe Carollo shows photos of illegal pop-up nightclubs in Miami. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

“It seems it was being used to film some kind of pornography at the same time,” Carollo said.

Miami commissioners voted on Thursday in favor of an ordinance to fine the illegal clubs $1,000 per day, and repeat offenders $5,000 per day. Carollo said that’s not enough. He wants to criminalize illegal nightclubs.

While public health officials promote social distancing and the use of face masks during the pandemic, men crowd at an illegal nightclub in Miami, police said. (City of Miami)

“We want to make sure that these people know that if they stay in the city of Miami, jumping from place to place, they’re going to pay a price,” Carollo said.

Carollo and Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla, former allies, are now at odds with each other.

The conflict became public when Carollo insulted Díaz de la Portilla over allegations of a “ghost employee” during a heated commission meeting on March 25th at City Hall.

Also last month, Art Noriega, the city manager, opened an investigation into a complaint by Suzann Nicholson, a veteran code enforcement officer.

This police body cam video image shows Suzann Nicholson, a veteran Miami code enforcement officer, and Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla arguing on Feb. 21 at a warehouse in Miami-Dade's Allapattah neighborhood. (City of Miami)

Nicholson was part of a team that was responding to pop-up nightclubs at warehouses on Feb. 21 in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.

Miami police officers’ bodycam video shows Nicholson and Díaz de la Portilla had a verbal exchange over a crackdown at a warehouse, at 772 NW 22 St., just west of Wynwood.

“I guess he’s representing the face of the city with the unlicensed activities,” Nicholson said in the video.

Police officers and code enforcement officers ran into Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla on Feb. 21 at a pop-up nightclub in Miami's Allapattah neighborhood.

Miami-Dade County was enforcing a midnight curfew at the time to help prevent community spread of the coronavirus. Licensed bars and nightclubs were closed. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava canceled the curfew starting April 12.

Díaz de la Portilla, who code enforcement officers reported was in violation of the curfew at the illegal party, denied any wrongdoing.

Related stories


Warehouse allegedly used for pop-up nightclub

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.