The Senses Say

Fort Liquordale Forever

Talking about it, Mossie seems to swell and glow like an electric eel; he can barely contain his excitement. "Most of these places are completely untouched," he says.

PBA: We Won! PBA Members: Huh?

So how much money did the Broward Police Benevolent Association pay to settle a lawsuit filed by former Hollywood Police Chief Rick Stone?

Aside from Stone and the attorneys involved, only two people know the answer to that question: PBA President Dick Brickman and Secretary Jeff Marano, who run the organization like a Tammany Hall fiefdom, passing out jobs and favors to loyalists. And they ain't talking. Yet.

"We pay dues," groused one union member who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. "That's our money."

Stone filed a lawsuit in 2000 against the PBA, Brickman, and Marano after the influential police union succeeded in ousting him from office. Brought in to clean up the hiring scandal that developed during Chief Richard Witt's tenure — the department had hired underqualified officers, including some with criminal records — Stone was perceived by the rank and file as a hostile figure. At the height of discord between Stone and the police union, officers protested outside City Hall and allegedly sent a bereavement card to Stone — before his cancer-stricken wife had passed away.

The lawsuit, which went to trial last week, spanned just two days in court before the PBA agreed to settle the case. Brickman played down the impact of the settlement.

"Stone got less than a handshake," Brickman tells the 'Pipe. "I don't think there are any doubts about the strength of PBA leadership, and I also think my membership will be happy with what we didn't have to pay." (Let's see. Would that be a number with six zeroes after it?)

Brickman declined to discuss specifics of the settlement, explaining that he would provide the information to his board of directors on November 8.

Despite having to settle the lawsuit against Stone, it seems unlikely that Brickman's and Marano's power inside the PBA will be diminished. Members have historically been afraid to speak out against the pair due to their control of off-duty work details and department loyalists known as "Jeffsters." In May, union members passed around a letter that criticized leadership and demanded that the accounting books be made open. Tellingly, no one signed the letter.

"We're cops," the union member says. "It's time for us to grow up and get some balls."

Letting reporters use your name might be a good start.

Hooters Don't Float

There are some spooky new developments at Fort Lauderdale's Riverfront, that megatourist complex on the New River. Around 8 p.m., when you'd expect dining to be at its apex, the second floor is about as well-lit as London during the Blitz. Of course, what else would you expect after three of the major restaurants suddenly and unceremoniously shuttered their doors recently? Hooters packed up its orange shorts and bouncy breasts and scrammed. Dan Marino's Town Tavern took the ball and went home. Martini Bar called it bottoms up.

Only Ugly Tuna remains up and running, and on this night, its patrons numbered barely enough for a good poker game.

All four of these restaurants are operated by the same company, LTP Management. So why did the powers that be close three restaurants? Why choose to keep Ugly Tuna open? The 'Pipe probed a bit while sucking up a brew. "We're just good," the underworked bartender whooped with the confidence of someone whistling by a graveyard in the dark.

At least he had something to say about the restaurant closings, which is more than LTP could offer. After numerous messages left with Donna Harris, the firm's spokesperson, she eventually left a voice message: "Our only comment is that we have closed and that we are looking for additional locations in the Fort Lauderdale area." Riverfront's owners didn't even bother returning a call. But restaurateurs in the 7-year-old riverside entertainment complex have complained in recent years about high rents and slow business.

Tailpipe's goosepimply night wouldn't have been complete without a visit to the nearby Olé Olé Mexican Grille and Cantina, the only other restaurant left alive up there. It sat as empty as a politician's promise. As in the ballroom bar scene from The Shining, the bartender stood gazing out at the empty tables. A baseball game flickered on the TV above him. The 'Pipe felt a shudder in his tubing and fled down the stairs.

— As told to Edmund Newton

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