Ricardo Gutiérrez is losing a lot more than a job when Fox's Sherron Inn closes July 31. The general manager of one of the longest-surviving restaurants in Miami-Dade is also losing a home. Gutiérrez lives in an apartment above the lounge that has served South Miami since 1946. The whole building is being razed in the name of progress. Still, Gutiérrez takes the news with a grain of salt. "To me, it's been one hell of a ride."
Gutiérrez, who has been with Fox's for about four years, knew the end was coming but seriously thought the news would come further down the line. "I didn't think it was going to be this soon." News of the lounge's impending closure swept like wildfire through the Miami restaurant community after Chat Chow TV tweeted about its imminent demise. The manager says the restaurant is closing to make way for something a little more modern that will make better use of the valuable property that lies beneath the iconic restaurant.
The owner, Venezuelan businessman Rene Dahdah, purchased the restaurant in May 2010. He will turn the space into a mixed commercial and residential building.
Asked why the sudden closure after the restaurant existed for nearly seven decades, Gutiérrez answers succinctly, in a way that's a tinge heartbreaking: "That's the thing with Miami — the property value is going up, and people want to get the most out of it. It's sad, but it's a reality." Contrary to some reports, there are no plans for a hotel, although the new building will likely include a restaurant as part of the commercial aspect of the structure.
Will the new restaurant be a more modern incarnation of Fox's Sherron Inn? There's hope, according to Gutiérrez. "We'd love to see that happen, but I can't guaranty that. Most definitely, we'll try to do that, although it's not been determined yet."
Gutiérrez says he and his co-workers, many of whom have served martinis and fried chicken to locals for years, will now have to look for other jobs. "Everyone — me and the owners — will help them out in any way we can. I'm looking for a job myself, so maybe I can take some people with me. I actually live upstairs, so I'm looking for a job and a home."
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When closing a restaurant, there's the business of selling off assets before bringing in the demolition crew. Already, buyers have their eyes on some of the retro items gracing the lounge. "Someone already claimed the jukebox, and the owner might want to keep the neon sign." As for the fox on the wall that greets people as they walk in: "We're taking pictures of that."
Still, a restaurant is a restaurant, and time changes things. In the end, what's left are memories. Gutiérrez will take his friendships with him when he leaves. "I'll miss the people; that's what I'll miss. I enjoyed working with every single person. I'll miss the customers and regulars like Larry and Terry."
For now, there are still a few weeks left to have a last meal before the July 31 deadline. The restaurant is also planning a goodbye party for loyal patrons August 1. "We'll be here," Gutiérrez says, "and we'll be together till the last — the last martini."