Cocktails & Spirits

Bar Lab to Take Over Operation of Magnum Lounge

In what is astounding news for Miami's bar scene, Bar Lab is poised to take over the operation of Magnum Lounge on 79th Street.

Magnum's co-owner, developer Avra Jain, confirmed the news yesterday. Specifics, such as timing for the takeover, are still in the planning stages.

Jain purchased the property in August 2014 with partner Joe Del Vecchio from Magnum's previous owner, Jeffrey Landsman, with the goal of keeping the bar open as a piece of Miami's rich legacy. "Magnum, supposedly the oldest bar in Miami now that the Tobacco Road building was knocked down, is an important part of Miami's history. When Joe and I bought Magnum, previously El Toro, we were motivated to make sure that it remained a part of this historic community." Magnum closed in fall 2014 for a facelift and refresh and reopened in spring 2015.

Jain, however, stressed that her talents lie in the purchase and restoration of properties, not the day-to-day workings of a bar or restaurant.

"We are not operators.Though we own other hospitality venues, like Vagabond, we do not operate the restaurant/bar. That is a specialty in and of itself which requires a special skill set. We enthusiastically bought Magnum from Jeffrey and kept the staff, chef, bartenders, and entertainment exactly like it was. We did an expensive cleanup to repair and maintain a vintage building that needed some TLC. When we reopened, we got mixed reviews from customers. Though they appreciated the freshness of the restoration, they thought maybe it was time to change the menu or add more variety to the music entertainment. 

"We even got stronger comments from new people who had recently moved to the neighborhood, who thought we missed an opportunity to reinvent the experience into something more 'relevant.' So, again, not being in this business, we do know we are not the people to find this balance, but we did have the responsibility to pick the right people who will embrace the history and yet make it more relevant."

Jain and Del Vecchio thought long and hard about a Magnum renaissance and what team could take the beloved lounge to the next level while respecting its rich history. First and foremost, Jain stressed, she needed, "a group respected in this community. A group that cares about neighborhood."

Eventually, Bar Lab's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi were tapped for the task. "Elad and Gabe and their Bar Lab team are the right people. This is a special project and from having spent time with them, the future of Magnum is in good hands. I am very excited for what they will add to the history of this prized property we know as Magnum. I am hopeful that the community as a whole will embrace the creativity and magic they will bring to our neighborhood establishment."

Zvi and Orta formed Bar Lab in 2009, and in a few short years, changed the way Miami imbibes. The duo first broke onto the scene by creating beverage menus for some of the best bars and restaurants in town before opening Broken Shaker. The bar, which also has a satellite in Chicago, was placed on the World's 50 Best Bars list, was a James Beard award semi-finalist, and most recently won a coveted Spirited Award at this year's Tales of the Cocktail for Best American Hotel Bar. 

Jain, a former engineer and Wall Street trader, is best known for her loving revival of the Vagabond Hotel on Biscayne Blvd. The savvy developer, along with the Vagabond Group, recently inked a deal to purchase the Miami River Inn, a historic 38-room property on the south side of the Miami River.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss