Creators of El Patio Bring New Cuban Bar to Former News Lounge Space

After finding success with Wynwood's Latin-themed El Patio (which we named Best New Bar this year), Nicolas Hoyos and Beto Perez were searching for a different motif when they found a new space off Biscayne and 55th St., where News Lounge once stood. "The area is flourishing nicely and we wanted to give people a new option they can't get, and then we came up with the Cuban theme," Hoyos says.

"We're going to have a happy hour from 5 p.m. to 9 every evening where you can get $1 mojitos, $1 draft beers with 20 different choices, and we offer the Mojito punch bowls for $5."

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"There wasn't a cool Cuban place in Miami, which we thought was awkward and weird since there's such a strong Cuban influence on the city. The next day, we went on a plane to Cuba to come up with ideas."

Hoyos may be overlooking Calle Ocho centerpieces like Hoy Como Ayer, but, from Wynwood to MiMo, he has a point. Hoyos, who is one-eighth Cuban with a great-grandmother hailing from the island, was struck by what he discovered on his trip. "The island has magic. It's different from the other islands in the Caribbean. The passion for food, music, and culture was amazing."

The two owners came up with their new spot's name, Punch, during the taxi ride from the Havana airport. "The first place we visited was the most beautiful, cool thing: an old boxing ring surrounded by all these crumbled down ruins. Everything was made out of wood and metal." That boxing ring provided the inspiration for Punch's centerpiece, a 25-foot scaffolding at the bar (which is made from made dominoes) with a Cuban flag planted on top. Perez and Hoyos were also particularly intrigued by the legend of Kid Chocolate, the Havana-born light heavyweight boxing champion of the '30s. "The entire inside has a vintage boxing feel as a play on our name. We have giant punch bowls of mojitos that comes in three different flavors: heavyweight, middleweight, and lightweight."
The bar's outside patio tries to capture other aspects of Cuba too. "The terrace in Cuba is where the families and neighbors get together to listen to music and play dominoes," Hoyos says. Punch's music will be curated by Mr. Pauer, the same man behind the music of El Patio. "We call the sound here Resasón. The 'Re' is for Reggaetón and 'sa' is for salsa and 'són' is for son. Those were the strong influences in Cuba we found when we visited all the underground places."

Hoyos says Punch will have daily happy hour deals with — believe it or not — cheaper mojitos than you can find even in Cuba. "Maybe locals can get it cheaper in Cuba since tourists pay with a different coin," he clarifies. But, "We're going to have a happy hour from 5 to 9 p.m. every evening where you can get $1 mojitos, $1 draft beers with 20 different choices, and we offer the Mojito punch bowls for $5." Punch also offers a menu of what they dub "Cuban bites" — essentially bar food with a Cuban theme — food like croquetas, tostones, and Cuban sandwich sliders. The bar will also specialize in a rum and cigar selections.
To start, Punch will be open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., with a Sunday brunch tentatively scheduled to start in October. As they prepare for the soft opening weekend, which will happen this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7 p.m., the partners behind Punch are hopeful they can provide an exotic yet laid back experience similar to what they savored on their travels. "We want this to be a Cuban place for locals, not a tourist trap. We're trying to mix in all the generations like they do on the island."

Punch's Soft Opening Weekend. 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday, July 21, to Saturday, July 23, at Punch, 5580 NE Fourth Ct., Miami; 305-758-9932; RSVP via $1 Draft Beers, $1 Mojitos, and $5 Mojito Punch Bowls from 7 to 10pm. 
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland