Marshall, Socarras, & Grant P.L.

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DailyBusinessReview

Restaurant Claims Construction Killed Business

It wasn’t the heat that forced the former Miami Beach restaurant Petit out of its kitchen.

What the company couldn’t stand was undue pressure from a public figure linked to its landlord, Purdy Partners 1929 LLC, that drove it to close its doors and seek emergency bankruptcy protection, according to its attorney.

PetitUSA LLC operated Petit, an Italian bistro that in September changed its name to the Oyster Leaf. It’s fighting eviction from the restaurant site at 1929 Purdy Ave. — a building owned by a single-asset company linked to Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and developer Scott Robins.

But its defense strategy took a turn when the restaurant operator filed a third-party complaint naming Miami Beach as a defendant in its eviction.

“There’s something more going on here,” said PetitUSA’s attorney, Joe Grant of Marshall Socarras Grant in Boca Raton. “We don’t know what it is, but it’s more than a simple landlord-tenant dispute.”

The restaurant is managed by Pino Bottiglieri. Its single-count complaint against the city alleges inverse condemnation or illegal government seizure of private land. It alleges the city’s public works department spent months doing extensive roadwork that ripped up sidewalks and demolished the road in front of the restaurant, leaving a dirt cavity and construction equipment in their place.

“The construction project authorized and initiated by the city of Miami Beach completely prohibited access to the property, which resulted in a taking of the property by the city of Miami Beach,” according to the complaint filed Dec. 29 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Grant said the business tanked without patrons, and PetitUSA was unable to pay November’s rent. He also painted a darker picture, accusing Levine of abusing his public position to orchestrate the roadwork and regain control of the valuable property.

If PetitUSA gets its way, liability would shift to the city, and the court would hold Miami Beach liable for the unpaid rent.

“I think the landlord had advance knowledge that those streets were going to be torn up,” Grant said. “The landlord knew the street was going to be closed but never told the tenant.”

The complaint does not name Levine or Robins individually.

Levine did not respond to requests for comment, but the city’s outside counsel, Meredyth Cooper of Lydecker Diaz in Miami, called the allegations baseless, saying the mayor would not use his official position to “carry out such a ridiculous purpose.”

Instead, city officials said the roadwork was part of a long-term flood-mitigation project.

Plus, City Attorney Raul Aguila noted Miami Beach’s council-manager style of government requires City Commission approval for the road construction.