What’s Going On At The Taurus Bar?
Framework for an awning is being installed on The Taurus Bar, December 19, 2013.
This work may or may not be non-conforming, may or may be contrary to previous
promises, and may or may not have been built without benefit of a building
permit. With the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums in the background.

A recent visit to Coconut Grove to document The Bicycle Shop revealed work going on at The Taurus Bar, the venerable watering hole in front of the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. 

Based on my previous investigations of [allegedly] illegal work going on inside the E.W.F. Stirrup House, it’s fair to ask the following questions: *

1) Does this work conform to all Miami and Miami-Dade bylaws?
2). Does this work conform with whatever promises were made to preserve The Taurus when the GGRC was built?
3). Does the owner have a building permit for the work?

I’ve written about The Taurus briefly, and only tangentially, during my research of Coconut Grove. It’s owned by an arm of Aries Development, builder of the GGRC, the monstrosity that dwarfs the little one-room building and the 2-story E.W.F. Stirrup House. Aries also owns the two other restaurants on the ground floor of the mixed use condo complex. Aries, in case you haven’t been following along chapter by chapter, also owns the two lots on the north side of Charles Avenue immediately behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Furthermore, Aries is about to get title to The Bicycle Shop — extremely valuable Main Highway frontage — in exchange for reliquishing all claims against the Playhouse for a previous loan.

The historic 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House — a 2-story modified Conch-
style house — dwarfed by the 5-story Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums

Far more important, at least as far as I am concerned, is that Aries also finagled a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House and has been allowing it to undergo Demolition by Neglect during the 8 years it has had control of the 120-year old cultural treasure. The Stirrup House is now believed to be the 2nd oldest house in Miami, after the Barnacle, Commodore Monroe’s house, which is now a Historical State Park and less than a tenth of a mile away. 

Charles Avenue has been designated an Historical Roadway and the E.W.F. Stirrup House has also been designated historical by the City of Miami. However, the practical effect seems to be no practical effect.on Gino Falsetto, the primary owner of Aries Development. His stewardship of this historical landmark has been nothing less than shameful.

Related: Why saving the Stirrup House saves important Black History?
Please read:Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part Two ► E.W.F. Stirrup House

Preserving the Taurus Bar was among the promises Aries Development made in order to get its permits to build the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. So was preserving and renovating the E.W.F. Stirrup House. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the treatment of the Taurus vs. the fate of the E.W.F. Stirrup House. 

The Taurus goes back, at the very least, to 1906, when it was a tea room for the High Society of Coconut Grove. Over the years it went from being a tea house to a neighbourhood bar. It attracted those within walking distance, but another one of the attractions, especially for the old-timers, was — as downtown Coconut Grove became overly developed — there was a free parking at the Taurus Bar in the years just before the GGRC was built. [Drinking and driving? Never mind.]

The E.W.F. Stirrup House goes back to the 1890s. I’ve written so much about the Stirrup House, I won’t go into its history here, other than its recent history. Ownership of the house remains in the hands of the Stirrup Family, as dictated by the will left behind when E.W.F. died in 1957. Aries obtained a 50-year lease on the house through a complicated property swap that’s detailed elsewhere at Not Now Silly.

While Gino Falsetto (through Aries, of course) promised to preserve and renovate both the Taurus and the Stirrup House, only the Taurus was fixed up. It’s been open almost the entire time. During a period that coincides almost perfectly with the Taurus being open, the E.W.F. Stirrup House has been empty, undergoing Demolition by Neglect, as mold, mildew and termites work away at the house.

I was told the reason no work ever progressed on the Stirrup House was because Aries ran out of money. However, The Taurus has been generating money for Aries and Aries had enough money to loan the defunct Playhouse board some of it. But, isn’t it strange Gino Falsetto never found the money to fulfill its OBLIGATION to restore the E.W.F. Stirrup House. And now it’s spending MORE money to put an awning on the Taurus before it fulfills its promises on the Stirrup House.

The Taurus Bar on December 19, 2013
TO BE FAIR: The Taurus could use an awning. Any place that hopes to have a viable outdoor patio, which The Taurus hopes to, in South Florida needs an awning. Fans and mist-ers are also a good idea. However, can you just throw an awning on any old building? What about a building more than 100 years old? What about a building more than 100 years old that you’ve promised to preserve?

And, while I’m asking questions, where’s the building permit? I looked inside and out, but saw no building permit. Does this awning affect pedestrian traffic? Was a study done of pedestrian traffic? Does the awning encroach on the public easeway for the sidewalk? How is Main Highway impacted by this awning. Is this an [alleged] infraction against Miami by-laws, Miami-Dade by-laws, or both?

Based on the past performance of Gino Falsetto these are all fair questions to ask. By sheer coincidence these happen to be the same questions I’ll be asking city and county officials in the next few days.

* The work is probably finished by now in advance of The King Mango Strut with Grand Marshall Rob Ford.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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