Morales' move to shutter his bar was a response to a one-two punch: rising rent, and lowered income due to COVID. "The decision to close was a business decision. It just wasn't working anymore." Morales transferred most of Wood's staff to his new establishment, Pizza & Beer, a stone's throw away on 23th Street.
Still, he missed Wood Tavern. So he started to think: What if he turned part of Pizza & Beer's 7,500-square-foot space into Wood Tavern?
On Sunday, July 11, Morales will open the first phase of Wood Tavern at Pizza & Beer.
That first stage will re-create the outdoor portion of the old Wood, complete with deck and bleachers. The second, indoor phase, Morales says, will open a few months down the line.
"The idea sounds really easy, but it took some real brainstorming to get to this point," the proprietor says.
The new Wood Tavern will offer the same drinks, DJs, and activations as the original Wood — including Taco Tuesdays, although Morales admits that might take a few weeks to implement owing to kitchen limitations at the new space.
"We basically just have a wood-burning oven for pizza right now, but I'll think of something," he promises.
The sole modernizing touch at this new Wood: a giant LED screen where graphics can be displayed. "It's where we can go a little high tech," Morales says.
He also plans to decorate the space with posters and memorabilia he took home from the original Wood.
"I don't think people were in love with the actual four walls," he says of his choice to move. "I think it was the staff and the energy. Wynwood needs places to get cheap drinks with friends. It's about community."
Morales lowered the prices at Pizza & Beer, as well, to keep them in line with Wood Tavern's prices and to attract locals. "Some people work at the breweries, some live in the neighborhood. It's a beautiful thing to see," he says.
The bar owner says he was able to lower prices because the rent at this new space is significantly lower. "The bottom line is that I can get more creative and do cooler things without having to cover crazy rent. To me, that's so liberating."
Morales chose Sunday, July 11, to open Wood Tavern, in order to come full circle with the March closing. "Since we closed on a Sunday, we thought it would be cool to reopen on a Sunday," he says.
It seems that Morales has a busy summer season in store.
He's collaborating with Bar Lab to open a cocktail lounge inside Las Rosas in Allapattah.
"The middle room isn't used much and I never knew what to do with it. It will be a place to get a good cocktail," he imparts.
He's also opening a pop-up tiki bar, outdoors at the original Wood Tavern space. "The tiki garden is almost done — hopefully in the next two to three weeks," he says. The pop-up will last until the space finds a new tenant. "They may ask me to leave in two weeks, two months, or more. I don't know," Morales says.
He's also thinking of getting a trailer to turn his B and D Burger into a mobile burger joint of sorts. (Morales: "I think those burgers were great.")
Morales says his business model has always been about offering Miamians well-priced food and drinks with a chill vibe. "My motto is don't take yourself too seriously, let people be free, don't have crazy prices, and have a fun time."
Wood Tavern at Pizza & Beer. 144 NW 23rd St, Miami; pizza-beer-beer-garden.business.site. Opens Sunday, July 11, at 3 p.m. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., Sunday from 3 p.m. to midnight.