It's the loveliest and most photographed café on Lincoln Road and probably the place associated most with the iconic pedestrian mall in South Beach. Visitors from all over the world recognize the red awnings and ivy-covered walls from pictures and paintings. And locals flock to it for Sunday brunch or live jazz.
It's the Van Dyke Café. And it's closing its doors, probably by the end of January.
Since 1994, this indoor/outdoor café, housed in the historic Van Dyke building, has been a mecca for people to drink mimosas or martinis, people-watch, or just enjoy a shady spot with friends or their dog.
In a town that supposedly never sleeps, try getting some food after 11 p.m. Van Dyke is one of the few spots on Lincoln Road that serves until the wee hours. And it's the only place to hear live music nightly.
It's probably no coincidence that the restaurant, situated practically in the center of Lincoln Road, is considered by many to be its heart. Who in Miami doesn't have memories of kissing or laughing at one of its tables? Or sipping a drink while moving to live music in the upstairs lounge?
When I moved to Miami Beach, Hurricane Katrina hit. Then Wilma. Both times, my husband and I spent part of the storm or the aftermath sipping wine at the Van Dyke. When everything else was shut tight, this café was a port in the storm.
Now, after dozens of threats and whispers, its closing is imminent. Graspa Group, owner of the Van Dyke, among other local restaurants such as Tiramesu, Spris, Salumeria 104, and Segafredo, was given notice late last week. A rep for Graspa Group tells us that details are still being worked out -- such as a definitive closing date or whether Van Dyke will relocate to another spot on Lincoln Road or elsewhere. Employees of the café were told they still had a job through the end of January, possibly longer.
What's even more breathtakingly sad is the fact that the Van Dyke will be replaced by a soulless retail chain. Rumors are swirling that Abercrombie & Fitch or Lululemon will step in. You know them, don't you? They're the douchey retailers that don't carry sizes larger than 12 (though that might change after backlash from very pissed-off shoppers).
It's a safe bet that neither will play live jazz. And you can't eat $98 yoga pants.
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Congratulations, Lincoln Road. You're officially 85 percent on the way to being a homogenized, generic strip mall.