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Thursday, September 29, 2016

City Attorney Victoria Mendez retains her position

Mendez
There was a special City Commission meeting this morning, September 29, regarding the issue of Commissioner Ken Russell's request to remove City Attorney Victoria Mendez from her city position. Ken claims she allegedly has withheld important information from him and is on the side of developers who are using tricks and illegal tactics to bypass zoning laws, overbuild and kill precious trees.

The discussion started with Ken explaining his case. He felt is was a trust issue. Ken asked that the floor be open for public comment. Chairman Keon Hardemon asked that there not be a public discussion. He felt that Ms. Mendez should not be blasted by the public. I agree. But the public was allowed to speak and this was played out in the court of public opinion and maybe it should have been a private issue dealt with by an independent council - a fair hearing and trial for Ms. Mendez. In the end, she kept her job. But after hearing lots of pros and cons from the public. All in public.


Commissioner Frank Carollo felt that the floor should be open since people made a point of showing up early on a Thursday morning, expecting to be heard. City code says that if an action is going to be taken, the public has a right to say something. If it's just a discussion, without an action, they don't need to speak.



Ken (above) said that it's up to the commissioners to decide whether the public should speak. Commissioner Francis Suarez felt that people wanted to "air out the dirty laundry" by speaking. He felt that people showed up to speak, so they should speak. He estimated that the meeting would go up to four hours if everyone in the chamber had a chance to speak for a few minutes each, it ended up being about three hours. Francis also felt that the more people spoke, from past experience, he knows it causes lots of ill will in the chamber and with the public.

Commissioner Willy Gort felt that people should be heard. He wanted to hear from the community. 


A lot of people spoke, you can see the video at the city's website. The consensus seemed to be that this was not the place to hear this case, that an independent council should hear the case and decide.

Ken said that the Ethics Commission should not rule on what is going on. This is a decision for five commissioners to make. It's a city decision. Ken saw legal opinion that did not make sense. That is why he brought up the issue. He feels that she withheld certain portions of what he asked for and that would affect the outcome. "Her job is not policy, she cannot decide what to show me or what not to show me," said Ken.

"The core of my decision rests on her withholding that information," he said. At Ken's first meeting with Ms. Mendez, after he won the commission seat, she told him out loud, in front of many people, about which cell phone company to use in order to protect his privacy and public records searches - she told him to use Sprint because they delete records more easily than other phone companies. Ken stayed with AT&T.  


He says he lost trust in Ms. Mendez at that point and found that very strange.



Commissioner Willie Gort feels that an independent review should be done. He wanted to hear Ms. Mendez's response through that procedure. He was concerned about making the wrong decision.

Ken's Motion was: "I would move that we remove our city attorney without cause and start the process of finding a new city attorney." It was not seconded.


In the end. Ms. Mendez has her job.  
Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon and Commissioners Francis Suarez, Willy Gort and Frank Carollo felt that they did not have a conflict with Ms. Mendez. As someone in the audience stated, it was a circus, and it was. I feel that the commissioners knew how they felt going in and by having the public stand and throw darts (and love) at Ms. Mendez, was not needed.

Good news is that Commissioner Francis Suarez wants to fix the NCD, he felt that the commissions's vote on the Battersea Woods re-platting issue was the right thing to do. And he feels that lot splitting in Coconut Grove should stop immediately. He feels that the city attorney's office should be looked at. "We need an experienced real estate practitioner at the city attorney's office," he said.



"We need an ombudsman, an office of transparency, where people can go directly to get public records," he went on.

"There is not a person up here that has been harder on Victoria Mendez, than I have, but I have never questioned her integrity, ever. I've never even thought about it. I disagree with her on many issues, but have never questioned her integrity," said Francis Suarez.

Some highlights from neighbors who spoke:

NCD (Neighborhood Conservation District) now stands for "Neighborhood Construction District" - activist Williams Armbrister.


Kangaroo Court, Banana Republic and Three Ring Circus were words used to describe the commission meeting and city.


Miami has been in the pockets of developers for too long. Things need to change, said one resident.


One attorney in the audience felt that there should be a proper process to hear this issue, not make it a public forum. Give Ms. Mendez a fair trial. She should be able to defend herself. She was being judged arbitrarily, the public did not have all the details and yet they are judging her. 



One resident called it a "Witch Hunt."  Another called it "Salem in the 1600s."

"Perception is everything. The perception is that the city is in the pocket of developers. Coral Gables is easier to deal with than the City of Miami. Developers in the City of Miami have it easy," said one Grove resident.


Codes are geared towards developers and developers use loopholes daily.


"Ms. Mendez is an asset to our city," said Javier Gonzalez, Coconut Grove Village Council.


An ethics lawyer said Ms. Mendez should be tried in a proper forum. Not in public. Ms. Mendez did ask that she be checked out by the Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission is empowered to subpoena all the records and facts. And it is impartial. They require evidence, unlike the City Commission meeting.



One lady asked why the chambers were so packed, usually no one is there. She asked why did everyone show up for this one meeting, was it to tear down Ms. Mendez? Why don't people show up when there are important meetings? "You have to come to every single commission meeting, not just show up when the media asks you to."

Javier Ortiz, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, explained that there is a process for ordering public records. Asking Ms. Mendez for public records is not proper procedure, there are people who work for the city who provide the records. He made a good point in saying, "We [the police department] sue the City on a daily basis," so it would make you think he was against Ms. Mendez, but he isn't. He claimed she is honest and trustworthy. 

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Raising money for START program

There is an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the Village West START Program.

The goal is to provide the Community Resource Initiative with approximately 40 laptops/tablets, 2 desktops, 2 color printers/scanners, 1 SMART television, and 1 Promethean/SMART Board among a number of miscellaneous items required to assist in the effective function of this initiative. This will help aid in the effort to offer support to those students who do not have access to technology, thus increasing their prospects of bettering their grades in school. Our site has two State Certified Instructors certified in Exceptional Student Education, Mathematics, Accounting, Reading K12 and Middle Grades English Language Arts and one county certified instructor who specializes in Reading Intervention.  

The goal is to raise $101,587, you may see the proposed budge and more on the campaign here. About 10 days are left to raise the money.

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Bird Festival takes over Fairchild Garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is hosting its 7th Annual Bird Festival in partnership with Tropical Audubon Society, from September 29 to October 2, from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm both days. 

Two days of off-site birding tours on September 29 and 30 will take amateur and expert birders on engaging half-day or full-day walks through birding hot spots like Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and a Hawkwatch at Curry Hammock State Park (registration is required). 

At the on-site Bird Festival celebration at Fairchild, visitors can listen to lectures about birding presented by leading experts, take bird walks led by TAS birders, and buy bird attracting plants for their gardens while enjoying food, fun and performances. James A. Kushlan Keynote Speakers Jim Kushlan and Kirsten Hines, authors and birding experts, will present ways to attract birds in your South Florida garden. Other notable speakers include Brian Rapoza, Paddy Cunningham, and more.

Held in conjunction with the Bird Festival, the 78th Annual Member’s Day Plant Sale features plants grown by Fairchild’s horticulturists. The sale is held in appreciation of the garden’s longest supporters. This year’s offerings include native South Florida plants, elegant palms and butterfly attractors.

Budding bird photographers can participate in the “Birds of South Florida” Photo Contest by tagging their best photos on Instagram with the hashtag #FTBGBirdPics2016, or submitting a photo by email to bird@fairchildgarden.org by September 28. Young birders can join by using the hashtag #FTBGKidsBirdPics2016. The winning photos will be digitally displayed in the Garden throughout the festival and the first place winners in the three categories (Adult, Kids, and Fan Favorite) will receive a year of Fairchild Membership. Winners will be announced at noon on October 1, 2016. 

The Bird Festival is generously supported by the James A. Kushlan Bird Conservation Program and the Tropical Audubon Society.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road. Admission is free for Fairchild members, Tropical Audubon Society members, and children 5 and under; $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up and $12 for children 6-17. Discounts are available for military personnel and anyone who walks, bikes or takes public transportation to the festival.

For more info and a complete schedule, please call 305-667-1651 or visit the Bird Festival webpage.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Special Grapevine lunch special at Bombay Darbar

It's Wednesday, so lunch is 10% off at Bombay Darbar, probably the best Indian restaurant around.

They are now open for lunch on Wednesdays, so the lunch schedule is Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 3 pm.

Dinner is served every night except Tuesdays. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 6:00-10:00 pm and Friday and Saturday 6:00 - 11:00 pm.

Receive 10% OFF on lunch on Wednesdays only during September and October - but you must mention the Coconut Grove Grapevine to receive that. 

Bombay Darbar is located at 2901 Florida Avenue.

For info: 305-444- 7272.

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Coconut Grove is about 'green' - not greed


Remember the house on South Bayshore Drive, across from Mercy Hospital, where the lady wanted to put in the Montessori school? Well, you should see it now. They sold the land and one of these same developers who tried to scam the City Commission last week, has put in over-sized white boxes, with zero lot lines, that come out and cover every portion of that large property.

Above is the before picture, and below the after. I don't know how this is legal. But they managed to do this.


This map shows where the property is, check it out next time you drive by, imagine if every house in that area went from being a single family house, on a large lot, to this. It would be wall-to-wall big white box houses.


Now check this out. The house to the right over the hill is one of the new white box houses, it is larger than the mansion next door! Larger than this mansion!


More and more are going in on single lot plats. This is a new one next door to the mansion, too.
And they greenery is gone from the large lots and it's mostly cement now.
The neighbors can almost reach out and touch each other. Many houses are being crammed into a space where one house was previously. All greed, no other explanation.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bodies are needed at Thursday's Commission meeting

There's an op-ed piece in the Miami Herald by District 2 Commissioner Ken Russel regarding Thursday's (Sept. 29) special City Commission meeting. You'll remember that Ken found some fishy goings on regarding the City Attorney Victoria Mendez and the meeting is to discuss removing the City Attorney from her position. Ken feels there is an alleged tie between Ms. Mendez and developers in Coconut Grove who are breaking laws to over-develop; making single plat homes into multi plat homes. 

According to Ken, Ms. Mendez allegedly held back documents regarding development projects, which Ken had requested. Ken believes it was to help the developers work around the system. 

To that end, it might be a good idea to have bodies at Thursday's commission meeting which is at City Hall (3055 Pan American Drive). The meeting starts at 9 am, and this is the only thing on the agenda.

We have a momentum started now with the Battersea Woods decision last week to stop the developer, Palmcorp Development from overbuilding on the property. The owners of Palmcorp live in Coral Gables and feel free to come to Coconut Grove to build here, what is not allowed to be built there. So many of us were so proud of our City Commission. They did the right thing. Let's hope they do the right thing on Thursday.

This is just the start and it must continue - we must reclaim our neighborhood. 

Coconut Grove residents must keep in mind that a mayoral race will be coming up and they must keep in mind that the votes going Ken's way on this issue will be important to anyone wanting Grovite's votes when the time comes. We need all five commissioners to help stop the destruction of Coconut Grove. Grovites are serious about this. Grovites stand behind Ken Russell and we will be there on Thursday and we will be watching.

It's alleged that Ken's office staff has been harassed, according to Ken's op-ed piece. I've also heard rumbling about this and it just leads me to believe even more that Ms. Mendez needs to go. Big shots not associated with the City want to keep her there. Why?

Please show up on Thursday morning, September 29, 9 am, and let the commissioners know that the Grove neighbors and voters are on Ken's side. 

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Blessing of the Animals is Sunday



The annual Blessing of the Animals is at St. Stephen's on Sunday, October 2 at 10:30 am. It's the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. The public and pets are invited to attend the traditional event.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church is at 2750 McFarlane Road.

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Oktoberfest Raffle helps fund Woody Pack Project

The Woody Foundation (TWF) is part of Oktoberfest in Coral Gables this year, starting this Thursday, September 29.

TWF has been doing some amazing things as of late. The Woody Pack Project has just hit an all time high with over 500 requests in just one month. So that means we get to help 500 people living with paralysis all over the USA. If you haven't heard about this project check out the latest video that explains how assitive devices can help people living with paralysis become more independent in their every day lives: https://youtu.be/HDyf2JTTMdg

Their Oktoberfest Raffle helps fund the Woody Pack Project.

Grand Prize: 5-Night Stay for 2 people at any North American Club Med location 
2nd Prize: Weekend Stay at Hyatt Coral Gables
3rd Prize: Ocean Kayak with paddle & PFD from Adventure Sports Miami
4th Prize: Signed guitar by all Oktoberfest bands 

You can purchase tickets as follows:  
1 ticket for $5
5 tickets for $20
12 tickets for $50
25 tickets for $100
You can either purchase them in person at Fritz & Franz from September 29-October 9, mail in a check or online here.

You do not have to be there to win and they will be pulling the winning tickets on October 9 at 8 pm. If you win they will be contact you about how to redeem your prizes. 

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Alfred Browning Parker and his Florida connection

Photo courtesy Robin Parker
There was a story in the New Times about legendary architect Alfred Browning Parker. It was saying that out of the 1000 buildings he designed in South Florida in his career, there are less than 100 left, maybe even less than 50. 

One main reason people are knocking down the iconic homes is that they want more room. The houses don't accommodate their lifestyle. But why buy an Alfred Browning Parker house if you are going to knock it down? I guess the answer is the location and the land. I guess it would have been a good thing if the houses were built in not so nice areas, so that people who appreciate the architecture and not the land.

Mr. Parker would have been 100 this year, he passed away in 2011. HistoryMiami has an exhibit with drawings, photos, plans, etc. 

The exhibt opened Saturday, September 24, with a reception and conversation with the curators. The exhibit runs through February 26, 2017.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $5 for children; children under 6 years old get in free. Visit historymiami.org for more info.

My friend, Grovite, Robin Parker is Alfred Browning Parker's son, I asked him how he felt about the honor. 

"It was great! The speakers, Randy and Allan did a fantastic job. Dad's architecture began with the environment, site and budget to which he developed a design that accommodated the clients needs and incorporated both beauty and function. Today Miami's architects seek maximum square footage with a minimum budget and build 'Casa Lego', 'White Denture' or 'Architecture by Chiclets'." said Robin.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Celebrating Coconut Grove's history

There's a celebration planned for the installation of various markers around Coconut Grove that point out places of interest. 

On Thursday, September 29, from 6 to 8 pm, come by the Woman's Club of Coconut Grove where Joyce Nelson, president of the Coconut Grove Civic Club will host the party.

The Coconut Grove Civic Club, which many of you didn't know about, was founded in 1923, they procured the signs from the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, and donated them to be placed at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Coconut Grove Library, Housekeepers Club of Coconut Grove/Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove, Pan American Seaplane Base and Terminal Building, US Coast Guard Air Station at Dinner Key, Mariah Brown House, Evangelist Street/Charles Avenue, and the E.W.F. Stirrup House. This is part of a program to promote cultural tourism, education, awareness, and to commemorate these historic sites as important elements of the City of Miami's history.

Please rsvp to grovites@mac.com or call 305-505-1147. Let them know you're coming. 

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10 things you didn't know about author Brad Meltzer

10 With Tom
10 questions in 10 minutes


Author Brad Meltzer will be sharing his newest book, The House of Secrets at an event at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (2750 McFarlane Road) on Wednesday, September 28 at 7:30 pm. Brad will read excerpts from the book and have a book signing afterwards.

The event is sponsored by the Bookstore in the Grove, they moved the event to St. Stephen's because they are expecting large crowds.  Reserve your book at big.events33@yahoo.com and receive 15% off at the same time.

Brad and his two new children's books. Photos courtesy Brad Meltzer.


Brad Meltzer is a well known, best selling novelist who writes political thrillers and non-fiction. He's also a comic book author, having written for DC Comics' Green Arrow, also Superman/Batman, Justice League of America series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and so many more. Brad is also well-known from his excellent TV shows, "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" and "Brad Meltzer's Lost History."

He has two new children's books out, "I am Jane Goodall," and "I am George Washington," also "The House of Secrets."

I asked Brad the 10 With Tom questions. Here they are:

TOM: I see you were one of the entertainers at Barbara Bush's 90th birthday party. What did you do to entertain the guests?
BRAD: The only thing I know how to do: Tell stories.

TOM: Who would you rather be Batman or Superman? Why?
BRAD: Batman. He’ll never win. He’ll never stop crime. He’ll never bring back his dead parents. But he’ll never stop fighting. Superman is who we wish we were, but Batman is who we know we really are. We all fight a losing battle every day. But we never stop.

TOM: I watch "Lost History," your History H2 show. If only one piece of lost history could be found, which would you prefer it be?
BRAD: The 9/11 flag. That’s the one.

NOTE: Good news! Looks like the flag was finally located thanks to Brad's determination!

TOM: Favorite junk food?
BRAD: Ice cream. Scooped ice cream at Haagen Dazs for four years. Still never tire of it.

TOM: Which comic strip would you love to jump into and spend the day?
BRAD: Calvin & Hobbes.

TOM: Last show you binge watched?
BRAD: Stranger Things.

TOM: Word of the moment
BRAD: Sad.
TOM: I was hesitant to ask why.
TOM: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
BRAD: Hawaii.
TOM: Last book you read, other than your own.
BRAD: Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron.
TOM: What did you have for breakfast today?
BRAD: Blueberries and granola. But I tell my brain it’s Count Chokula.

Thanks, Brad! See you at St. Stephen's!

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bicyclist in the dark

As the seasons change, it's getting darker in the mornings. When I leave for the gym now at around 7 am, it's still dark out. I noticed at that time that many of the bicyclists don't have reflectors or any sort of light on them or the bicycle and many of them wear black. Not a good combination. 

When there are three or more, they tend to take over the center of the road. So while you're diving you suddenly come upon them out of nowhere and you have to have fast reflexes to avoid an accident.

Early weekend mornings, there are sometimes 100 of them, more or less, at CocoWalk, where they meet up. I should take a video when they all leave CocoWalk at the same time, it's a scene to behold. I did it once before, I don't know where I put the video, but I stand on the median on McFarlane and they fan out toward me as they leave for their ride. Here I am explaining it, when I should just show it. Maybe next weekend. 

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Should we sue the City over city charter violations?

Recently I read about a 30-year-old First-Amendment attorney, Justin Wales who would like citizens to be able to sue the City of Miami when it comes to over-development. 

From the New Times article: "Give the people the right to sue the city and be heard in court when elected officials violate the city charter. If you live in Miami, you can vote on this proposal November 8. It will be ballot question number 4."

It goes on: "The biggest danger of that, Wales says, is in the area of real-estate development. If citizens can't sue, there's no way for them to challenge the improper handout of public money, land, and privileges to developers, or other forms of corruption."

"Just look at our skyline and imagine what's going to be there in five or ten years. If the public knew the extent to which some of those buildings were pushed through, I think it would reflect poorly on the city and the City Attorney's office," says Justin.

That ship has already sailed, I don't know of anyone who doesn't think poorly of the city and the City Attorney's office. And Planning & Zoning, I might add.

People who purchased condos downtown who had hoped to flip them are not making any money at all, the condo glut has them losing money. The only ones making money are the developers. All this excess housing is not needed.


The younger generation is now getting involved and the developers may have to start making changes. Miami is the only city that allows this rampant non-stop growth. There is a bubble and a bust and then things look good, so building goes on. Then there is another bubble and a bust and then things look good. Doesn't anyone see that there is something wrong with this? The people who should be protecting our quality of life are all about money. It's all about money. Greedy people run our city.

There's a beautiful photo on Justin's Twitter page, it's from @EngageMIA's page. 
It shows about 30 young people at a meeting, who want to make a change. It says, " Leadership meeting disrupting Miami politics. Be a change maker. Be an activist. Be a leader."

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Today's sunrise

Today's sunrise in Coconut Grove. You can see a few more photos and moving image of the sunrise over the bay at our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/coconutgrovegrapevine/

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Craft Spirits Fest week starts this week

The Craft Spirits Fest (CSF), the original exhibition of artisanal, boutique, craft, premium, small-batch spirits and cocktails returns for its fourth year from September 27 through  October 6, 2016. The CSF showcases spirit producers, bartenders and beverage industry leaders who are influencing today’s resurgent craft spirits and craft cocktail movement.  While the ten-day celebration will peak with the Grand Tasting at the Cruz Building in Coconut Grove, the preceding days are packed with many events.  Here’s a look at what's on tap for the week:

Tuesday, September 27
Rock, Smoke & Barrel kicks off the week of events at Prime Cigar Brickell (1100 SW S. Miami Ave.) from 8-11 pm. Rock music will be playing while you enjoy cigars and fine whiskey. Meet Jonathan Drew, Founder of Drew Estate Cigars and John Drew Spirits. Enjoy Drew Estate cigars, a welcome cocktail and preview samplings of John Drew Rye - a 100% Canadian Rye aged 4 years in toasted oak barrels.  Light bites provided all night.  Availability is very limited.  Contact Prime Cigar Brickell at 786-522-2220 or info@primecigar.com

Wednesday, September 28
The 3rd Annual Women, Whiskey & Wieners at The Mighty (2224 Coral Way) happens from 6-9 pm. This Ultimate Whiskey Wednesday will benefit the beloved industry pro Cesar Diaz’s family (his wife lost her battle to breast cancer this year) in honor of the upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Featuring the finest women in the spirits industry representing:  High West Distillery, Michter’s American Whiskey, Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey, Concrete Beach Brewery and more. Whiskey specials all night long,  whiskey cocktails and house-made wieners. Open to the public.

Saturday, October 1
WallBrawl and El Jimador Tequila will team up at the Surfcomber (1717 Collins Ave.) for an amazing night of “live art competition” and tequila cocktails. Vote for your favorite artists and watch “Art Happen”. Open to the public. Details at Wall-Brawl.com

Monday, October 3
The festivities continue with the BareKnuckle Bartender presented by Casa Noble Tequila at Copper 29 (206 Miracle Mile) at 8pm.   Top bartenders will compete to make their best cocktails to earn the coveted title of Craft Spirits Fest’s BareKnuckle Bartender Champ.  Free punch will be served and this event is open to the public.

Thursday, October 6
The Grand Tasting is the Craft Spirits Fest's main event, and it’s happening from 7:30  to 10:30 pm at the Cruz Building (3157 Commodore Plaza) in Coconut Grove.  This event brings together 30+ spirit producers from across the country/world for a comprehensive, large-scale tasting event.  Over 120+ different Spirits and Cocktails will be available to sample.  At bars throughout the building, Miami’s best bartenders from the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild will serve amazing craft cocktails.  Special guest Joaquin Simo from Pouring Ribbons New York - Tales of the Cocktail American Bartender of the Year 2012,  will be joined by local bartenders to bring a little New York cocktail flavor to Miami.  Brown-Forman and William Grant are both presenting amazing bar experiences featuring their spirits on the 2nd and 3rd floor bars.  Pair a cocktail with free food samples from local restaurants and top it off with Relentless Roaster’s Coffee on our terrace.  Tickets for Grand Tasting are $75 and are extremely limited.  

Tickets available at:  CraftSpiritsFest.MixStir.com

Friday, October 6-7
Any great Party needs a great “After Party”.   After imbibing all those great spirits; nothing is better than a nice cold brew.   The CSF Beer Chaser After Party starts at 10pm and will continue until 2am at Taurus: Beer & Whisk(e)y House (3524 Main Hwy)  Attendees of the Grand Tasting receive a complimentary brew plus other food and drink specials throughout the night!

For more information of the Craft Spirits Fest Week of events and for tickets please visit CraftSpiritsFest.com

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Stop by Sonesta for free ice cream on Saturday

Saturday, September 24 is National Ice Cream Day and you can get free ice cream at the Sonesta Hotel from 12:30 to 1:30 pm.

Celebrity Scoopers, Erika del Sordo from WSVN and Roberto Suarez from Telemundo 51 will be celebrating with hotel guests and locals in the lobby of the hotel by handing out free ice cream.

The purpose is just to have a fun. You'll receive a cup of vanilla ice cream and you can add your own toppings.

Stop by at 2889 McFarlane and enjoy!

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Grovite wins Design in Excellence Award

Grovite Kathy Kesler, president of Interspace Design Group in Miami, has won another Design in Excellence Award from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) SFC.  Kathy received the award in the Hospitality category for her design of The Claremont Hotel in Miami Beach, shown here. 

The competition was open to any project in any city designed by a South Florida design professional. Judging criteria included design merit in scale and proportion, color composition, innovation, creative and functional use of space, effective use of lighting, appropriate solution of the design concept, and relationship of materials, textures and patterns.


Kathy Kesler
“I am so honored to receive this prestigious award. The South Beach Art Deco Historic Hotels are so unique that it was very challenging to fit all requirements of the hotel brand and current-day guest preferences within a small footprint,” says Kathy.“This was accomplished by creating efficient space planning as well as extensive millwork and furnishing designs that maximized function and aesthetics.”

Interspace Design is committed to providing comprehensive and cost-effective design services to both the hospitality industry and select residential clients, including new construction, renovation and progressive design solutions.  In the last three years, Interspace Design has completed 29 major interior design projects nationwide, ranking it as one of the top-performing design studios. 

Clientele include Hilton, Intercontinental, Westin, DoubleTree, Radisson, Embassy Suites, Sheraton, and Starwood's upscale properties known as The Luxury Collection and St. Regis Hotels. 

Kesler is NCIDQ-certified, licensed and a professional member of ASID.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Battersea Woods re-platting denied by Commission

A number of residents stood up before the City Commission on Thursday during the Public Comment Period and the consensus is that most Grovites feel that the NCD3 (Neighborhood Conservation District) laws are not being enforced which is destroying the character of Coconut Grove. PH.3 is the plat for Battersea Woods.

The property is at  4384 Ingraham Highway. The one acre property is in danger of being split up to allow five large houses, destroying the tree canopy in its wake. Construction has already begun, we pointed out this mess of a property in April.


"Immoral" and "greed" were words used often to describe the developers, Palmcorp Development Group, who are said to be skirting the law.

"We, the voting public only ask that our laws are unforced." said one resident.

Many felt that City Attorney, Victoria Mendez, one individual, took the law into her own hands when it came to the Battersea property. She ignored advice given to her by many in order to accommodate the developer.

Why is the city ignoring it's own code to appease developers was asked by many.

The young lady who was being evicted, stepped up and spoke at the Commission meeting. Again, she started putting down the neighbors who are against new development. She didn't understand why people are fighting the new development since it raises property values in the area. She then claimed that it brings property values up so much that it has forced her out. So I am not quite sure what her reasoning is for being condescending to the neighbors, as development has affected her, too. It's all about quality of life. 

"Developing with a conscience," is how one lady put it. One man said that the City Commissioners need to start listening to the tax payers who elected them and pay their salaries.

Carlos Sosa, of Palmcorp Development Group, from Coral Gables, one of the developers of the Battersea Wood project spoke. He said that they had gone through all the laws and have gone through many obstacles. It's interesting that he is not trying this in his own hometown of Coral Gables, but here in Coconut Grove.  He claims that they are seasoned developers and have not used loop holes to conduct business. 

Paul Figg, the attorney for Palmcorp spoke. He says the warrant process does not apply. He says Miami21 does apply. He claims it is all legal. He says that all of the neighbors live on platted land that was not platted to begin with. And now the Commission should vote for the approval of the Battersea property expansion.

Our District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell, made a motion that the plat additions be denied for the Battersea Woods property. He moved that the plat be denied because it did not go through the warrant process and neighbors did not have a chance to appeal the development. Of 13 cases in the Grove now that have lot splitting going on, Ken's office did an investigation and they found that all 13 were not done properly and the properties bypassed the system and are being built illegally. Once concrete is poured, the error cannot be rectified according to local laws.

It's too late for six, the remaining seven will be dealt with.

In the end, the motion passed 5-0. the Battersea Woods property re-platting was denied. A win for the neighbors. For now.

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SCBWI meeting at The Bookstore

The Grovey Coconut Grove/Miami Children's SCBWI Critique Group meets on Tuesday, October 4 from 6 to 8 pm at The Bookstore in the Grove.

Please bring notebook and pen with you. Also please bring copies of your work to share. This meeting is open to both children book writers and illustrators.

SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, an international organization. The non-profit founded in 1971 not only supports children's books but also writing for magazines, film, television and multimedia. It's a network for the exchange of ideas between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, book sellers and even librarians. There are over 22,000 members worldwide.

Please RSVP here, so we can tell everyone how many copies need to print out to share.

The Bookstore is located at Mary Street and Florida Avenue.

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Centennial Gala celebrates Vizcaya's 100th birthday

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is gearing up to celebrate its centennial, kicking off a year of festivities with the Vizcaya Centennial Gala on Saturday, November 19, from 7:00 pm to midnight. This fundraising event supports the preservation and protection of the estate and is the kick off of many activities over the coming year that will celebrate Vizcaya's anniversary.

"The centennial will focus on Vizcaya's role as a community asset. Vizcaya is both an accredited museum and National Historic Landmark. The anniversary year will provide opportunities for students, families and visitors to engage with history, experience art and discover nature at this beautiful bayfront estate," says Joel Hoffman, Vizcaya's Executive Director.

Vizcaya was originally the winter home of agricultural industrialist James Deering. Conceiving, designing and building Vizcaya was a massive project that employed approximately 1,000 workers-a full 10 percent of Miami's population at the time. Vizcaya was inaugurated on Christmas Day, 1916 with an Italian-themed party. The Vizcaya Centennial Gala pays homage to that event.

"Just as James Deering celebrated with a grand party in 1916 when he first moved into his home, we too are celebrating with our very special Centennial Gala," says Christina Martin, co-chair of Vizcaya's Centennial Gala committee. "From elegant cocktails to dancing under the starts to a spectacular fireworks display, we will be celebrating Vizcaya and its important role as part of our community for the past century."

Vizcaya's Centennial Gala will begin with a red carpet at the entrance of the beautiful Gilded Age estate, leading into the gardens and Courtyard for cocktails. The evening will continue with an elegant outdoor dinner overlooking Biscayne Bay. The University of Miami's Frost School of Music will entertain guests throughout the evening with a broad repertoire of music performed by numerous ensembles and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. Additional entertainment will be provided by the Valerie Tyson Band.

A silent auction will include voyages with Azamara Club Cruises to any of their worldwide ports, a Lakini Tour to Peru and many other items including exquisite jewelry from Yvel. Dinner, dancing and the auction will be followed by a fireworks display above Vizcaya's Barge.

To become a sponsor or purchase tickets or a table for Vizcaya's Centennial Gala, please visit vizcayagala.org. To learn more about Vizcaya and events during the anniversary year visit vizcaya.org

Vizcaya features a Main House, a collection of art and design, furnishings and sculpture; 10 acres of formal gardens; a rockland hammock (native forest); a mangrove shoreline; the Vizcaya Café and Shop presented by A Joy Wallace Catering, Design and Special Events; and a historic village with buildings, grounds and gardens that is undergoing restoration. Located  at 3251 South Miami Avenue, Vizcaya is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm except Tuesdays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. For more information, visit vizcaya.org, call 305-250-9133, or email vizcayainformation@vizcaya.org.

Photo courtesy Vizcaya and World Redeye.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Luther Campbell is guest speaker at Grove Rotary

Luther Campbell
courtesy Rolling Stone
Two Live Crew's Luther Campbell will be nasty as he wants to be on Thursday, September 22 as guest speaker at the Coconut Grove Rotary luncheon. Luther was also mayoral candidate for the Miami-Dade County Mayor in 2011.

The cost for lunch is $20. 

Please join in for what will be an very interesting discussion. 

To RSVP to coconutgroverotaryclub@gmail.com

The luncheon is at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, 2990 S. Bayshore Drive. It starts at 12:15 pm.

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Making a difference

That meeting last week at the Village Council was haunting me. But not just me. This is some great news. I got this letter from Commissioner Ken Russell overnight.


Hi Tom,

I saw your post about [the young lady's] visit to the Village Council last week (A Cry for Help).  You were dead on.  All of the intentions and talk from me and others have not changed the fact that she and up to 120 other residents of the West Grove may be evicted and homeless in the coming months.

On a long shot, I came to the final city budget hearing tonight with an amendment to allocate $306,000 toward emergency re-housing for urgent eviction situations like this. After some discussion and pushback and then support, the amendment passed.  The funds will be placed in the Department of Community Development which will create a program to work with these residents and bridge the gap to their next place in life.

The bigger solution involves accessible housing opportunities within our community.  I’m up for that challenge, but in the meantime, I’m very thankful to my fellow Commissioners for helping these neighbors.

Ken Russell
Vice Chair, Miami City Commission
District 2

COMMENTS ARE OPEN

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Do you support the village?

I was talking with a couple of store owners here in the Grove; stores, not restaurants. They were telling me that business is bad. They claim that locals don't shop in the Grove. Is that true?

Their argument, which makes sense, is that we're putting in all sorts of condos and multi-unit dwellings on one plat of land because people want to live in Coconut Grove, yet they don't spend any money here and support the village. They may eat at the restaurants, but when it comes to retail, they don't spend a dime. These store owners know because they ask people where they are from, and most are not from the Grove.

One owner told me that in South Miami, maybe 90% of the shoppers are from South Miami; but he says, not at Sunset Place, which is basically the same as CocoWalk. On the south side of Sunset Drive, many of those stores have been there for years and the store owners know their customers by name. It's not a tourist destination as maybe Sunset Place is, and the owners on Sunset Drive and south, rely on the neighbors to support them.



I was given some ideas on how to improve the Grove, but we have heard all this before. One store owner told me we need artists, art galleries, maybe even horses and carriages and clubs. Yes clubs. And he also said hand carts, which had always been a part of the village for years. We don't even have the rickshaw guys here anymore. Remember Spider-man? St. Petersburg, FL, has horses and carriages as well as NYC and New Orleans, and if the horse is treated with respect, why not here, too? When we have the mounted police riding around the Grove, it's a special thing. People love it.

Also, opening up the Coconut Grove Playhouse again was on the list, but that doesn't seem to be happening at this point. The playhouse did recently receive some sort of historical designation, but that and $5 will get you a cup of coffee at Panther.


I have to admit that on Gallery Walk night or even at the Village Council meeting the other night, it was the same people at each one. I like seeing people I know, but it would be so nice if new faces showed up for something. Just like a few years ago, when we had events in the Grove, each committee had the same people on all of them, many of us would walk from one meeting to the next, the same people, running all the committees. We would walk from a Bedrace meeting at the Bookstore to the Mayfair next door, to meet about July 4th, then maybe traipse over to the Glass House for a Merchants Meeting, and so on.

I find it interesting that so many people want to move and live here but they don't support the village. Why? Maybe a little charm and atmosphere will do the trick. As if Coconut Grove wasn't charming enough.


COMMENTS ARE OPEN.


A big part of our past - Shaun/Spider-man.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bombay Darbar adds Wednesday to lunch lineup

Bombay Darbar, probably the best Indian restaurant in these parts, is now open for lunch on Wednesdays, so the lunch schedule is Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 3 pm.

Dinner is served every night except Tuesdays. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 6:00-10:00 pm and Friday and Saturday 6:00 - 11:00 pm.

Receive 10% OFF on lunch on Wednesdays only during September and October - but you must mention the Coconut Grove Grapevine to receive that. 

Bombay Darbar is located at 2901 Florida Avenue.

For info: 305-444- 7272.

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