One of Lincoln Road’s finest steakhouses is likely headed out of business, and its owner is blaming what he calls a heavy-handed City of Miami Beach policy.
Raul Leones, Manager of Ole Ole Steakhouse in the heart of Lincoln Road, says he was breaking the news to his approximately 50 employees Friday.
“They are about to close our restaurant, which is a family business restaurant," he said. "We have more than 50 employees in this restaurant and they are about to lose their jobs."
It's city code violations that are squeezing the restaurant, and only four have been issued to Ole Ole since they opened in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Despite violations being addressed immediately, like an overloaded garbage container, the city has revoked the restaurant’s sidewalk cafe permit.
Ole Ole was told to cease all sidewalk operations on Nov. 30.
Miami Beach City Commissioner Mark Samuelian says businesses using public property for their sidewalk cafés must operate near perfection. Ole Ole’s four violation notices — two from last year — were all remedied immediately, but apparently, it was still too much of an infraction, and city staffers revoked their permit for outside dining.
Samuelian insists the policy is reasonable.
“I think we were fair in our analysis, I think the policy was clearly communicated, but let’s remember the goal, to improve the experience for our residents and visitors,” he said.
So far 13 restaurants have been told their outdoor dining permits have been pulled because of code violations.
Samuelian said the move is part of the effort to clean up Miami Beach’s image, along the lines of moving up last call on South Beach from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.
For many Miami Beach restaurants, outdoor dining is the cash cow, generating more than indoor revenues. For some, without service on the terrace, they’d be out of business.
Lincoln Road property owner Mel Schlesser leases the space to Ole Ole. Miami Beach policies, he says, are bad for business.
“How in the world am I going to get another restaurant in there?” said Schlesser.
“They're going to turn around and they’re gonna say, Mel, if my garbage is overflowing or if I have some sort of minor violation, I’m going to lose my million dollar investment, like Miguel is losing his million-dollar investment," he said. "I don’t understand it.”