By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Like Swatting a Gnat
Forgive this smoke-belching tube for having a soft rust spot for cigars, those personal chimneys favored by sophisticated capitalists and chimpanzees in the entertainment industry. Whether man or monkey first innovated the cigar bar, it remains a stroke of genius: a venue to enjoy pungent smoke away from your living room upholstery, to knock back a glass of port, to clap other men between their meaty shoulders and call them sons of bitches, all in peace.
One such joint in Fort Lauderdale is a 700-square-foot slice of the high life called Macabi Cigar Bar, at 1221 E. Las Olas Blvd. The owner, an irascible, Ugandan-born, Hindu entrepreneur named Pat Patel, sets out oversized ashtrays and slices of homegrown mangoes with chili powder to dull the effects of alcohol. It's good times.
Alas, parking is at a premium in the frou-frou downtown shopping and dining district. At their most recent meeting, city commissioners -- in an unthinking stroke of administrative business that might just hurl Patel's cozy little sanctuary into the void -- voted 3-2 not to grant Macabi a reduction in the number of spaces it must provide to remain a bar under city zoning regulations.
Patel says he has already spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyer bills, city fees, and a parking study that showed between 30 and 60 open spaces within safe walking distance of the bar throughout two February weekend nights. It was simple, he said. He just needed the city to overlook his shop's eight-space deficit. But with neighborhood residents complaining that cars in public parking along city streets interfered with their garbage pick-up, the commissioners declined Patel's request. Along the way, commissioner Cindi Hutchinson twice said that general parking snarls were the problem, not "Mister Macabi," apparently referring to Patel.
The merchant is sufficiently furious at the prospect of being busted down to a regular retail store, he told Tailpipe, that he intends to sue Hutchinson (who represents the Las Olas area) and Mayor Jim Naugle, who also voted against granting the parking variance -- though as of last week, city attorney Harry Stewart said Patel hadn't put the city on notice. "I'm going to fight for it," Patel said.
All things considered, the 'Pipe has to side with the sensible Collee Hammock residents who suggested to the commission that the city actually, uh, do something to fix the parking situation. Maybe neighborhood permits or parking restrictions on trash pickup days? Anything other than heartlessly putting the kibosh on "Mr. Macabi."
All I Want Is 7,900 Yo-yos
The sweet sound of capitalistic chaos radiating from the second floor of the Broward Convention Center last week went something like this: "Yibibibibibbybybybyby 15 five? Ombadombadomma 25, umityumityumity 25 thousand, dibidibidibidibi 22 jamayayamayamay now three! Boomayaboomayaboomaya 24 thousand 24 four! Four! Four! Four! Four!" By the end, someone had a couple of hundred gas scooters for about $40 per, with the caveat that they had to be exported to be used. It was the kind of deal clincher you learn to expect at one of the regular U.S. Customs Auctions at Port Everglades, stocked with about a million bucks' worth of wares confiscated in the course of various violations of federal laws.
The auction catalog read like a fat cat's Christmas list, if the cat had obsessive-compulsive, pack-rat tendencies. There were the baubles: tricked-out BMWs, flat-screen TVs, Rolexes, diamond earrings. There was also the mismatched dreck: damaged car doors; toner cartridges, "operation unknown;" 7,900 yo-yos; Bibles and bookmarks printed in Spanish; 85 cartons of leather jackets. Lots of crap in 300 lots. Keep it? Sell it? Tailpipe marveled at the possibilities.
"For someone willing to hustle a little bit, there's money to be made in somebody else's trash," said Britney Sheehan, a spokeswoman for EG&G Technical Services, which runs about 150 of these government auctions annually.
But it appeared that the crowd of more than 500 bidders and their assorted hangers-on was mostly expecting bargains that didn't materialize. Sheehan had already warned the 'Pipe not to expect big savings on automotive toys. "They mostly go at market value," she said. Dozens of would-be buyers filed out after the last vehicle sale, a yellow Hummer H2 to a North Lauderdale couple, Joel and Dawn Medina, who budgeted $40,000, earned from a recent home sale, for the status symbol/tank and won with a bid of $39,500. "We've got the new home, the truck, and some change left over," Joel said.
The other big exodus of the early afternoon followed the sale of lot 146, a 42-inch Sony plasma TV. For once a no-brainer, eh? The auctioneers' signs went up and down like a game of whack-a-mole until someone had agreed to pay $2,500.
Hallandale Beach would-be investor named Mark Barkow shook his head in disgust. Brand new, the Sony goes for $1,998, including a warranty, Markow said. The auctioned model comes with an "as is" designation; auction officials won't even let you plug it in and turn it on to see if it works.
"You don't know if it fell off a truck!" Barkow exclaimed to anyone who would listen on his way to the parking garage. "The problem is," he continued astutely, "people are stupid!"