Miami Residents File Last-Ditch Lawsuit Against City Over Ultra Festival Deal

Ultra Music Festival
Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Tiesto performs during Ultra Music Festival 2018 at Bayfront Park on March 24, 2018 in Miami. 

In 2018, Ultra Music Festival failed to renew its lease to operate in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park. The City of Miami then approved Ultra to move venues to nearby Virginia Key in November. Now, three weeks before the festival opens, some locals are putting up a fight.

The Brickell Home Owners Association, which represents 35,000 residents, and private citizen Christopher Mullin have filed an emergency complaint challenging the legitimacy of the City and Ultra's license agreement.

"Virginia Key is an utterly inappropriate venue for ULTRA," filing lawyer David Winker, Esq. tells Billboard Dance. "The City of Miami circumvented its own laws and disenfranchised its own citizens to force this deal through ... a deal that is a disaster for the environment and our residents."

The lawsuit is based on a perceived semantic technicality, arguing that the City's agreement to "license" the land reads more like a lease agreement. It states that, according to Florida law, leases are subject to competitive bidding and more rigorous public approval, while licensing deals circumvent such debate.

The lawsuit argues that the city “approves a theme to avoid the important public protections of competitive bidding by calling the agreement with ULTRA a license, rather than a lease, when in fact the terms of the arrangement clearly constitute a lease under Florida law." The complaint therefor asks a local judge to void the current licensing agreement between the City and Ultra.

At the time of Ultra's approval, the festival promised to employ environmentally protective measures, including restricting beach access to attendees and eliminating single-use plastics from the premises. It plans to relieve heavy traffic concerns by eliminating parking on the island, restricting attendees access via free shuttles or rideshare options like taxis, Lyft or Uber.

Ultra is scheduled to make its Virginia Key debut Friday to Sunday, March 29 to 31. Billboard Dance reached out to Ultra's team for comment.