It's Not A Mitzvah!

Jeff Shain reports on a lawsuit filed against the Fairmont hotel chain over the LPGA's new event at Turnberry Isle.
Organizers of an annual 10-day Passover vacation retreat at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle have sued the resort for breach of contract, alleging they are being kicked out to make room for the LPGA.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, asks the court to uphold the contract. Some 500 Orthodox Jews from around the world are expected in Aventura for the retreat.

''This event has been promoted for a year and a half,'' said attorney David Freedman, who filed the suit on behalf of Presidential Holidays Southeast Inc.

``Most people have nonrefundable [airline] tickets for the event. . . . Everyone needs to know what happened here.''

According to court papers, the Fairmont Turnberry Isle is in the final year of a three-year agreement to hold the Presidential Holidays package. Next year's retreat is set for April 17-27.

The 2008 LPGA schedule features an April 24-27 stop in South Florida. Although details have been kept under wraps, Turnberry Isle's role is central to the lawsuit.

''They wanted the LPGA,'' said Lynda Clare, who owns Presidential Holidays with her husband, Stuart Vidockler.

``We were stunned when they first called and said they were canceling the contract.''

The Fairmont Turnberry Isle recently completed a $100 million transformation, including a $30 million redesign of its two championship courses. The resort held the ADT Skills Challenge earlier this month.
And it looks like LPGA legal will be busy on this one:
Donald Soffer, founder of Turnberry Isle and managing partner of Turnberry Associates, also is named as a defendant, along with the LPGA.

An LPGA representative also declined comment, saying officials were unfamiliar with the lawsuit.

The resort notified Presidential Holidays in an Oct. 16 letter that it was ''exercising our right to cancel'' the 2008 Passover retreat, without giving explanation.

However, the contract specifies the resort cannot cancel unless the retreat fails to meet its housing or financial obligations.

According to the lawsuit, the Passover holiday brought more than 850 participants over the past two years -- utilizing more than 3,000 room nights.

Clare estimated some 250 people already have signed up for next April's retreat.

''We've met our obligations,'' she said. ``They're not allowed to cancel for a better piece of business.''

Although the resort has worked with Presidential Holidays to find an alternative site, the requirements of Jewish rabbinical law make it difficult to relocate.

Among other things, the event requires two kitchens to prepare food according to kosher laws. Two Seders are part of the program.

''We've worked really hard to build this program,'' Clare said. ``For us, it's very sad.''