“I know Doral isn’t the first place people think of when you mention a place like the Yard,” says Trina Sargalski, director of marketing and communications for Yard Hospitality. “But I think that’s what makes it appealing.”
Sargalski is part of a small team of coordinators for the Doral Yard. Like most of the people who organize events here, she worked in Wynwood as well. She admits there are challenges to moving a business like the Yard into the suburbs, but she also cites this as one factor contributing to its success.
“I grew up in West Kendall, which was like a wasteland in the '80s and '90s,” Sargalski says. “But now Kendall’s different, better. So I really bought into the vision of the Doral Yard early on. Just because it’s not a place where we are expected doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be there. There are a bunch of people in Doral hungry for this, just like when I was in Kendall and hungry for something different and new.”
The idea of the Doral Yard was not to simply bring a Wynwood staple to the suburbs. Doral is the heart of Miami-Dade's Venezuelan community, and the team at the Doral Yard is making concerted efforts to embrace the culture of its neighbors.
“A couple of years ago, members of our leadership team had an immersive experience in Doral,” says Robyn Baltuch, Doral Yard's director of events and partnerships. “We stayed at a hotel in Doral for a week to get a feel for the neighborhood. We wanted to see what happens in Doral. What do people here do for fun?”
“We learned about it from our neighbors. They kept asking us if we were having gaitas, so we booked a band, and it ended up being our biggest night of the year,” Sargalski says. “People were so happy, dancing and singing along with the songs. It was this amazing, Yard-like community vibe, but different from before. I know all of us on the team felt like we had that connection. We were doing what we needed to do for this new neighborhood we were in.”
Though it may be bittersweet for longtime fans of the Wynwood Yard to see how scaled-down the Doral Yard is, compared to their old stomping ground. The stage in Downtown Doral is small and makeshift, plopped in the middle of Main Street, which has been temporarily closed to vehicular traffic so that the venue could offer music programming. There’s not really a dance floor; rather, several Adirondack chairs are set up in front of the performers. For the moment, the music programming seems to be a much less significant component to the Doral Yard than it was back in Wynwood.
“We had music programming at Wynwood Yard for more days of the week and for much longer hours,” Baltuch says. “We’re in the middle of a residential neighborhood now, so now we have to be cognizant of sound, neighbors. We’re testing out what acts resonate with the new community.”
The provisional nature of the Doral Yard’s live-music setup may be underwhelming — but it’s also temporary. As of now, the venue is operating out of its front yard, which pales in comparison to what's being set up out back. Attached to the current Doral Yard, the 20,000-square-foot event space will feature Barbakoa, a new restaurant by chef Eileen Andrade of Finka Table & Tap.
“I think people who have been to the Wynwood Yard before would be surprised with how things look now,” Sargalski says. “We have so much pedestrian activity on the street where the stage is. But what we’re building in the backyard is going to be much more similar to what people remember from the Wynwood Yard — except that it’s going to be thoughtfully designed ahead of time. We’ll actually have coverings for when it rains now.”
Maybe it’s overly optimistic to expect the Doral Yard to live up the Wynwood Yard’s musical legacy — but then, why should it? It’s no small thing to be presented with this carefully designed, grand event space in the suburbs. After all, people live here.
“I think it’s always a mistake when businesses plop their idea from one community into another and just expect everything to work exactly the same,” Sargalski says. “We want to be respectful and mindful of Doral’s established community.”
The Doral Yard. 8455 NE 53rd St., Doral; 305-744-5038; thedoralyard.com.