Speakeasy. Whorehouse. Music landmark.
For the last 101 years, Tobacco Road has stood at 626 S. Miami Avenue, serving a clientele of locals, drifters, and legends in need of booze, good times, rhythm, blues, and rock 'n' roll.
This tavern survived Prohibition. It lasted through the lawless coke-addled days of the 1980s. But it's not going to beat Brickell real estate development.
In 2012, the land on which the Road lies was purchased for $12.5 million. And while Miami's oldest bar was guaranteed to remain at its current location through May 2015, co-owner Patrick Gleber tells Crossfade that plans are being made to sell and relocate.
"We have a three-year lease," Gleber says. "And the landlord hasn't exactly been like, 'You're gone in one more year' or
The plan: A sale by Gleber and his partners to a group of Tobacco Road employees, followed by a relocation a block away to "the triangle building on the edge of the parking lot" at 69 SW Seventh Street.
"Basically, I was approached by manager Joel Rivera and the employees, and they asked, 'What's the possibility of us buying it?' So I talked to some of the other investors to tell them that the employees are trying to put together a program to purchase, move, and run it.
"The investors said, 'Yeah. That's a great idea. Let's see what happens."
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Of course, the Road's staff members would need to put up a lot of cash — "$1.5 and $2 million," Gleber estimates — to complete the sale and relocation.
"There's a liquor license. There's money needed for the lease of the new building and the build-out," he says. "But it can be done in phases. And I told them that this doesn't preclude other investors coming in."
The employees are looking to post personal money, host a series of benefit concerts, and raise funds with a Kickstarter campaign in the hope of saving Tobacco Road.
Another part of rescue attempt will be salvaging any and every scrap of 626 S. Miami Avenue for use at 69 SW Seventh Street.
"The property owners have told us that we can remove anything from the bar," Gleber says. "The neon sign, the bartop, whatever."
Obviously, it's quite possible the Road's staff will fail to collect the necessary couple of million bucks.
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In that case, Gleber admits: "If the employees are unable to do it and somebody else comes in to buy, then it could be sold to someone else. Absolutely.
"But there is also a chance for outside investors working with the employees as profit-sharing partners. And I've secured the new location, the lease, the opportunity."
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