‘Offensive, defamatory and illegal’: Nikki Beach files lawsuit over lease discussions
The owners of South Beach day club Nikki Beach have filed a lawsuit against the city of Miami Beach and a local concession company, the latest escalation in a feud over the future of the oceanfront property.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, accuses city officials of executing a “backroom deal” with beach concession company Boucher Brothers for a potential no-bid agreement, calling it “a demonstration of pure political arrogance” that is “offensive, defamatory, and illegal.”
“Boucher Brothers is being given an unfair advantage to potentially take control of the property,” the complaint says. “Meanwhile, the operator of the property for the past 37 years, [Nikki Beach], is deprived of the right to attempt to renew its lease at least on equal footing.”
After initially voting to pursue a term sheet with Boucher Brothers, giving the company an inside track three years before the Nikki Beach lease is set to expire, city commissioners now appear poised to reverse course and put the matter out to bid.
Still, the lawsuit refers to the recent reversal proposed by Commissioner David Richardson as a “Back Pedal Resolution,” noting that it contemplates an expedited bid process before Richardson and two other elected officials leave office later this year.
“The Back Pedal Resolution is nothing more than an inartful and transparent cover-up of the improprieties underlying the [earlier] resolution,” the complaint says. “It too is fundamentally flawed and thus should be stopped before it is even voted on.”
Seeking to block a commission vote
The lawsuit asks a judge to enter an order preventing the commission from voting on the item next Wednesday and argues the city and Boucher should be held liable for various offenses, including alleged unregistered lobbying by Boucher in its interactions with Commissioner Ricky Arriola and violations of Nikki Beach’s due process rights.
In a statement Friday evening, Miami Beach City Attorney Rafael Paz said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit and noted that when he saw a lobbyist for Nikki Beach co-owner Lucia Penrod at City Hall earlier in the day, “he failed to mention it.”
“I would imagine he was embarrassed that his client has resorted to making such frivolous and sanctionable claims,” Paz said.
Penrod has said she expected the city to issue a request for proposals once the Nikki Beach lease was near its May 2026 expiration date, and was “shocked” to learn officials were discussing a possible deal with Boucher.
The discussions reflect Miami Beach officials’ efforts to tamp down on the city’s party scene and a response to homeowners in the South of Fifth neighborhood who say they want something more their speed than a day club at the site.
“It’s prime city property. It ought to be used with some measure of resident perspective, and for decades it hasn’t,” Mayor Dan Gelber said in an interview last week.
War of words
Arriola, who first proposed the negotiations with Boucher, has blasted Nikki Beach as “dilapidated,” even as some residents have rushed to the day club’s defense as a well-loved community staple.
“Arriola’s unnecessary, untrue, disparaging, and defamatory remarks wrongfully and intentionally disparage ... the Nikki Beach brand,” the lawsuit says.
The discussions have led to critiques from some residents who say political connections appear to be affecting the process and see Nikki Beach as a treasured local spot.
Boucher Brothers has engaged with Major Food Group, a high-end restaurant company that includes Nikki Beach’s next-door neighbor, Carbone, about potentially putting a restaurant at the site.
That idea faced fresh scrutiny this past weekend after several Miami Beach elected officials were seen attending the swanky Carbone Beach dinner party put on by Major Food Group and Boucher Brothers.
Officials’ acceptance of $3,000 tickets to the event this year and last year could potentially run afoul of state ethics laws, experts said, because entities tied to the Bouchers and Major Food Group are registered to lobby the city on issues unrelated to Nikki Beach.
Lucia and Jack Penrod first signed a lease with the city through a competitive process in the mid-1980s, when they were operating a club called Penrod’s. The deal provided a 20-year term with two 10-year renewal options.
Today, their lease requires annual payments to the city of 6.5% of gross receipts, an arrangement Arriola has criticized as a sweetheart deal.
The Nikki Beach brand started in 1998 as a quiet garden by the ocean, named Nikki Café to honor Jack Penrod’s daughter, Nicole, who died in a car accident when she was 18. That later became Nikki Beach, which revolutionized “day club” culture in the area.