By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
Add a nasty letter from the Army Corps of Engineers and the re-emergence of a lawsuit filed by the City of Hollywood to the growing roster of problems facing everybody's favorite gambling cruise-to-nowhere company, SunCruz.
The May 29 missive, addressed to the owners of Martha's Restaurant, cites problems at the eatery's dock, where SunCruz ties up the giant Sun Cruz VI gambling ship. "Specifically, you have installed several cluster mooring pilings in the Intracoastal Waterway adjacent to Martha's Restaurant that were not authorized by the... Corps permit...," it states. Translation: The dock wasn't designed to handle a boat the size of the Sun Cruz VI, and when Martha's upgraded, someone forgot to tell the Army Corps, the folks with jurisdiction over navigable U.S. waters. The dock is built to handle only "temporary mooring for restaurant patrons' private vessels," according to the letter.
The Corps's Jacksonville office gave Martha's owner, George Zinkler, 15 days to respond and 30 to do something about the problems. As of Tuesday he had done nothing, according to Corps spokesman Barry Vorse. "We have gotten no response on any of the points," says Vorse. "Our people will be looking into this in the next couple weeks to determine our next step."
Neither Zinkler nor his attorneys returned messages seeking comment last week. Embattled SunCruz owner Adam Kidan didn't call back either.
The Corps means business, noting in its letter that it can slap Martha's with a fine of as much as $200,000 and one year in prison.
Then there's the lawsuit filed by Hollywood in late 1998 to chase away the SunCruz boat. Jamie Cole, Hollywood's former city attorney, is handling the case for the municipality. He believes the restaurant and dock are improperly zoned for SunCruz.
The case has been delayed several times because of SunCruz's ownership change, the murder of Gus Boulis, and now the company's bankruptcy. Hollywood beach activists, who have long wanted the boat gone, say Cole simply hasn't pressed hard enough.
Bankruptcy takes precedence over other legal matters, notes Cole, but the judge in the case, Paul Hyman Jr., can make an exception for actions dealing with regulatory or police power. Cole thinks his suit fits that loophole nicely and has high hopes for an October trial.
Given that Gerald Destin had been a dishwasher at Darrel & Oliver's Cafe Maxx for eight years before he was murdered on the job during a robbery attempt in March, you'd think his employers would want to do everything possible to help police solve the crime.
But you'd be wrong.
Destin was working in the restaurant March 20 when three masked gunmen broke in a back door and shot him. He was taken to North Broward Medical Center, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds. A divorced father of two teenage daughters, Destin had come to Florida from Haiti in 1977 and had become a citizen in 1989.
As first reported in Undercurrents' favorite Broward County newspaper, The Ledger of Pompano Beach, the Broward Sheriff's Office scheduled a June 18 reenactment of the crime at the tony Atlantic Avenue eatery. The idea, says BSO spokesman Kirk Englehardt, was to generate fresh leads by re-creating the killing, then showing it on TV. "It's a wonderful tool," says Englehardt, "one of the last-ditch efforts when we've exhausted all the leads we have."
Everything was set to go until Cafe Maxx owners pulled out, Englehardt says. "I guess the restaurant had some concerns."
Neither detectives working the case nor Cafe Maxx owner Darrel Broek returned Undercurrents' phone calls.
Frank Vargas has been snubbed by Hollywood politicos once too often, so he's ready to pack up his organization and move south.
Vargas is president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce of Broward County, a 600-member group that has been based in Hollywood since its inception in 1987. Hollywood seems a logical place for a headquarters. After all, it is centrally located in Broward and has a population that is 22.5 percent Hispanic, as well as the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans anywhere in the county. And as we all know from reading the interminable census coverage in the daily newspapers, Puerto Ricans are the fastest growing segment of the Hispanic population in the county.
Apparently that's no reason for Hollywood officials to show up at Latin Chamber functions or even to send someone in their stead. Vargas's invites are regularly ignored by all but two Hollywood pols: city commissioners Fran Russo and Peter Bober. Herroner Mayor Mara Giulianti never darkens the door of a Latin Chamber function, he says. "If it's not the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, she isn't interested."
The final insult was a June 1 Latin Chamber executive luncheon attended by more than 100 politicians from around the county and covered by Spanish-language newspapers, the Sun-Sentinel, and at least one TV station. When no one from Hollywood government showed, Vargas fired off a letter to Giulianti requesting an explanation. She responded with a missive stating that she was out of town and has no control over what other commissioners do (which will play to peals of laughter from Hollywood activists).
Enough is enough, says Vargas. "The message is clear." He's scouting locations for a new headquarters in Miramar. "They like us there."