Florida’s attorney general Pam Bondi is suing popular Miami Beach restaurant Icebox Cafe, over what she says were “deceptive” claims made by the restaurant used to convince customers they were eating local products when they weren’t.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by The Miami Herald, says that the restaurant, “allegedly misled customers by claiming the restaurant received state certification as a local provider and sold local products. However, national food distributer, SYSCO, provided much of the food sold,” according to a statement from Bondi’s office.
What exactly did Icebox claim? Allegations include that the restaurant boasted product from Homestead-based Paradise Farms, but has no records of actually purchasing produce from the farm. The restaurant also claimed to serve wild salmon but reportedly had no receipts to back it up. The suit also alleges they “falsely” created a “garden-to-glass” cocktail program that boasted using ingredients from a nearby garden.
The civil complaint, which was filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, names both Ice Box cafe’s location on Miami Beach and Miami International Airport along with its owner Robert Siegmann of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Representatives for Icebox released the below statement to Eater:
We relied on our vendors during this time to provide select products farmed and produced in-state, however, at no time did we express that all items on our menu were from local purveyors. As a local business in Miami for two decades, we are dedicated to transparency with our loyal customers and we apologize for any confusion our participation in the campaign may have caused.
In Bondi’s complaint, it states that 62 percent of consumers are willing to pay higher prices for items they deem “farm-to-table” and because of this Icebox Cafe tried to “capitalize” on this trend by marketing the restaurant using that term along with words like “community,” “garden,” and “fresh” to create the impression that the menu was locally sourced.
The state is looking to get a permanent injunction on Siegmann’s practices, and the restaurants also face penalties for the alleged violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act such as fines up to $15,000 per person affected by these claims.