When David Bracha opened Oak Tavern in the fall of 2012, the Design District was still a mostly quiet neighborhood, especially on weekends and evenings. Now, less than three years later, it has turned into the new Bal Harbour, with just about every designer imaginable — Prada, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Tiffany & Co. — opening high-priced shops.
This past March, real-estate site the Real Deal reported that 35 NE 40th St., the building that houses Oak Tavern, had been sold to an affiliate of Brooklyn-based RedSky Capital and London-based JZ Capital Management for $28 million. The building last sold for $2 million in 2004. According to Eater, the new owners plan to demolish the structure to make way for condos.
So Oak Tavern must close. Its last meal will be served Sunday, May 10 (Mother's Day).
The Design District's rapid growth spurt surprised even Bracha, an astute businessman, who says, "the retail growth in the Design District has been more than anyone could have expected a few years back. I hope the neighborhood continues to grow and enjoy success. It will be nice if this growth can still allow for retail to coexist with restaurants. Either way, it’s a positive trend for the city of Miami to see so much interest from major brands."
Of course, major tony restaurants are planned as part of the neighborhood's upturn, with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Joël Robuchon both throwing hats into the Design District's culinary ring. The question remains, however, if there is room for affordable eateries that locals can patronize. Micheal Schwartz's Harry's Pizzeria, Dena Marino's Mercato, and Michelle Bernstein's Crumb on Parchment come to mind, but can a new, fledgling chef hope to make a go, or will real estate be priced out for a new kid in town?
This is not the end of Oak Tavern, however. The chef/restaurateur sees this sudden move more as an opportunity than an ending. "We’re thankful the Design District has become so sought-after by the luxury companies who generously acquired the building," he says. "This purchase affords us the opportunity to be able to move to a new location, complete with every amenity we desire, to continue to innovate and stay true to the cuisine I’m genuinely passionate about.”
Bracha and his team hope to relocate and reopen Oak Tavern within the year. He says the concept will be similar, with a casual atmosphere and an outdoor garden. The menu will stay true to the original format, with a few positive tweaks. "Expect to see emphasis on the amazing local ingredients that are so abundant in South Florida."
Though rumors are swirling that Oak Tavern will move to Coconut Grove, the restaurateur hasn't inked a deal on a specific property. But he says, "There is great potential for a revitalization of that neighborhood. With plans for the revamped waterfront, the continued success of local staples, and plans for more to open soon, the Grove should again become a prime Miami dining destination."
As for Bracha's other restaurant, River Oyster Bar will remain open in Brickell throughout the summer, he says. The chef has leased spaced on the ground floor of the Flagler on the River Apartment Towers being built by the Melo Group. Bracha adds that to ease issues caused by construction, the restaurant offers complimentary parking in the back lot during lunchtime.
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