Miami Burger Joint Loses Its Franchise After A Gay Nightclub Opens Upstairs

Only three months after a gay club opened on the second floor of the country’s first Burger & Beer Joint in South Beach, Miami, the franchise has revoked the local restaurant’s right to use their name, menu and concept.

The South Beach locals are saying they’re being targeted by the Boca Raton-based franchise for leasing the upstairs to a gay club promoter. Their proof? They say they were sent a letter shortly after the nightclub opened saying it “could have a substantial negative impact” on Burger & Beer Joint’s reputation. The local restaurant is now operating without a name and concept.

“It’s outright discrimination,” Carlos Ekneiro, one of three partners who own the local restaurant, told the Miami Herald. “How can they say because they’re doing gay events that it’s hurting their brand?”

According to the Herald, “the national company, B&B Franchise Group, says the restaurant at 1766 Bay Rd. is hiding behind a gay-rights issue and has a long history of flouting corporate rules, including the fact they opened any bar without first getting approval.”

“B&B Franchise also canceled their agreements with Ekneiro and his partners at two other Burger & Beer Joint restaurants, one at Dolphin Mall, the other at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. The company said Ekneiro’s group transferred ownership at the Dolphins Mall location without going through the proper process and was serving items off the menu in West Palm Beach.”

As for the “gay-rights issue”, B&B’s attorney, Charles Forlidas, said the following:

“We know it’s South Beach. We welcome the gay community…. It’s the fact they brought in a third party.”

But club promoter Tony Ferro says that after Ekneiro approached him about opening the club, called The Mix, he later met with a B&B corporate representative.

“They knew what we were doing. It had to be approved with them, which they did. They were OK with the whole concept,” said Ferro. “We don’t sell their food. We don’t brand ourselves together with B&B at all. I don’t see how they would associate us with them.”

But the aforementioned letter certainly makes those concerns clear. Writes the Herald:

A flier touting “South Beach’s New Gay Hotspot,” sharing the restaurant’s address, was referenced in a letter the franchise sent Ekneiro’s attorney in early November, within weeks of The Mix opening on Oct. 27. The letter says the nightclub is an “unapproved use” that “could have a substantial negative impact on B&B and the associations made by consumers or the general public with the B&B System.