Miguel De Grandy, Holland & Knight. Courtesy photo

For a while it didn’t seem as though Ultra Music Festival would close 2018 on a harmonious note. Mired in trademark litigation, the Miami staple and internationally adored electronic music festival was booted from its longtime home of Bayfront Park during a contentious Sept. 27 Miami City Commission meeting.

But with the help of land-use attorney Miguel De Grandy, the festival’s future is not only looking brighter, but more scenic as well.

On Thursday, De Grandy secured four out of five votes from Miami city commissioners approving Ultra Music Festival’s bid to host the event at Virginia Key on March 29-31, 2019. Under the new agreement, organizers of the centerpiece of Miami Music Week will pay the city $2 million for the use of Miami Marine Stadium and Historic Virginia Key Beach Park to accommodate its infamously lavish stages.

“The majority of the activity will be on the Miami Marine parcel,” De Grandy told the Daily Business Review. “The other 20 to 25 percent will be in the Historic Virginia Key Beach area.”

Despite being retained less than two weeks before the hearing, De Grandy was quickly brought up to speed. The attorney, a partner with Miami’s Holland & Knight office, had to navigate a number of challenges and concerns over his client’s prospective move.

Foremost among them was the presence of another event, Rapture Electronic Music Festival, on the same grounds and on the same dates sought by Ultra.

De Grandy disputed Rapture’s claim that a contract had already been signed with Miami for its 2019 edition.

“We were surprised by Rapture’s claim because we were unable to find any actually executed contract,” De Grandy said. “We monitor City of Miami Commission meetings and we know [Rapture representatives] haven’t been to meetings like we have.”

Significant objections against Ultra’s move were also raised by Key Biscayne residents, who mounted a movement against the festival, according to Miami New Times.

“It’s unfortunate that they engaged in a campaign of deceptive advertising,” De Grandy said when asked about their efforts. He added that Ultra Music Festival has had no major incidents since 2015 and carries a zero-tolerance substance policy aided in part by its “amnesty box” program for illegal drugs.

“One thing I’ve learned in the 37 years of practicing law is you don’t engage in deceptive practices if the law is on your side,” De Grandy quipped.

Read the agreement between Ultra Music Festival and the City of Miami here: 

And now, organizers will spend considerable resources to address traffic fallout, their attorney said.

“We’re going to do everything possible to minimize the transportation impact,” De Grandy said, acknowledging that unlike Bayfront Park, Virginia Key is traditionally only accessible by one route: the Rickenbacker Causeway.

“Contrast to the staging at Bayfront Park, where we didn’t spend a penny on transportation, we’re going to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a transportation plan,” De Grandy said. He added his client is currently identifying parking options as well as the possibility of arranging buses, ferries and water taxis to transport festival attendees to their destination.

Speaking on the environmental concerns, De Grandy said the beach of Historic Virginia Key Beach Park will be closed off using concrete barriers as well as 10- to 12-foot fencing. And to control the noise, the decibel levels will not differ from what Rapture would have offered.

The agreement between Ultra and Miami to host the festival at Virginia Key is a five-year revocable license. It stipulates that should the city decide to terminate the agreement, it must give notice at least 364 days before the next scheduled iteration.

Reflecting on the possibility of further haggling over Ultra’s next location, De Grandy said “whether someone wants to take legal action or not is their prerogative.”

“The city … made it very clear to the city manager that they were [willing] to sit down, meet with Rapture and accommodate different dates to stage their event,” he said in response to the prospect of making arrangements with their newfound competitors. “I think that’d be the best of both worlds. Both can co-exist happily, peacefully and musically.”

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