The Biscayne Times

Sunday
Jul 21st
It’s Miami, Sex Sells PDF Print E-mail
Written by Francisco Alvarado, BT Contributor   
May 2019

Hot lips, long tongue -- bon appetite!

Traveling northbound on Biscayne Boulevard, it’s hard to miss the vinyl poster tied to the chain-link fence surrounding the old Royal Motel, which is now a

TSign_1raveling northbound on Biscayne Boulevard, it’s hard to miss the vinyl poster tied to the chain-link fence surrounding the old Royal Motel, which is now a construction site at NE 74th Street. The sign prominently features the bottom half of a woman’s face with devil red lips. Her outstretched tongue touches the tip of an unpeeled banana. A tagline reads: “You cannot taste me until you undress me.”

The rest of the poster heralds the pending arrival of a “kitchen and craft bar” called Love & Spice, to be located in a renovated and renamed Knoxon Motel. For some denizens of Miami’s Upper Eastside, the sign’s cryptic messaging is a callback to Biscayne Boulevard’s bygone era as a red light district where hookers and johns strolled the strip.

“Those are the emotions it brought up,” says Jessica Sanchez, owner of Loba restaurant across the street. “I wasn’t offended by it, but I also know it’s meant to draw attention. And my initial thought was that the sign wasn’t for a restaurant.”

According to Love & Spice CEO Sami Rodriguez, he fully intended to create a provocative poster that left people guessing about what will be going on inside the Knoxon, one of several historic motels in Miami’s Historic MiMo District owned by developer Avra Jain. The property is adjacent to Jain’s Vagabond Motel, one of the neighborhood’s more popular destinations.

Sign_2

“When we designed the banner, I wanted people to think, ‘Is it a cabaret? Is it a sex shop?’” Rodriguez says. “It was to grab their attention and create some noise.”

The Puerto Rican chef says he and his boyfriend and business partner, Argentine chef Eduardo Martinez, are planning to open an upscale restaurant and bar that caters to couples who enjoy indulging their palettes.

The Love & Spice concept began as a pop-up eatery at the Untitled Art Fair during Art Basel Week in 2017, Rodriguez explains. “We continued doing the pop-up ever since,” he says. “We took in about 1200 guests a day [at the fair]. People seem to love it.”

The restaurant and bar will be located on the Knoxon’s ground level, and a second phase calls for opening a speakeasy-style piano lounge upstairs that Rodriguez hopes will capture the spirit of the shuttered Magnum Lounge a few blocks north.

The Love & Spice duo are not the first new restaurateurs in the MiMo District to startle the neighborhood with bold marketing stunts. In December the owners of La Placita, a Puerto Rican restaurant in the Balans building, painted half the structure’s exterior as a Puerto Rican flag. The controversial move sparked outrage among historic preservation activists angry that La Placita’s owners did not first seek permission from the Miami Historic Preservation Board. The controversy also led to volatile confrontations between La Placita’s patrons and neighboring homeowners upset about vehicular traffic the restaurant brought to their quiet street.

Rodriguez admits he felt the need to make an audacious statement in teasing the Love & Spice opening. “I didn’t make a big old Puerto Rican flag, but I had to do something,” he says. “I was doing it to pique people’s curiosity.”

Sign_3Although, at least for one female Upper Eastside resident, putting up a sign sexualizing women in a neighborhood where prostitution once flourished is not a good idea, especially in the age of the #MeToo movement. Lori, who asked that her last name not be used because she works for a national finance firm, notes that the stretch of Biscayne Boulevard between the Vagabond Motel and Gold Rush Cabaret at 77th Street “has been fighting the image of streetwalkers and hookers since the beginning of time.”

“Now that things have been cleaned up, maybe the sign is a wink to what it used to be,” she said. “I worry the context is something that’s not portraying women in a positive way.”

Ironically, a master plan that Rodriguez shared with the BT proclaims that the restaurant’s interiors are partially inspired by the feminist movement. “It is a very sexy concept, and you will see a lot of photographs of sexy girls, as well as of sexy boys,” Rodriguez says. “But we’re celebrating the feminist movement of the ’60s. My intention wasn’t to offend anybody.”

In Rodriguez’s defense, Loba’s Sanchez says the MiMo District welcomes risk-takers, even though she describes the Love & Spice sign as “typical Miami, using sex” as marketing gimmick. “There is so much traffic in front of that building, it was smart to do something eye popping,” Sanchez says. “People passing through can see it easily. And hate it or love it, sex sells.”

Feedback: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Art and Culture

ArtFeature_1For art dealer Anthony Spinello, message matters

Read more...

Art Listings

Events Calendar

BizBuzz

Pix_BizBuzz_7-19Sales, special events, and more from the people who make Biscayne Times possible

Read more...

Picture Story

Pix_PictureStory_7-19A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

Read more...