Jonathan Lazar, Former Sustain Owner, Describes What Miami Lacks

The closing of Sustain, the Midtown restaurant that emphasized local everything, elicited groans from some parts of the blogosphere. Months later, the space remains empty, but rumor has it the team behind the adjacent Sugarcane (and Lincoln Road's Sushi Samba Dromo) has taken over the space and is planning an Italian restaurant.

Shortly after Sustain shuttered, Managing Partner Jonathan Lazar returned to his native New York to manage Gran Electrica Restaurant, a Mexican restaurant opened by Sam Richman (now departed) in Brooklyn's Dumbo neighborhood.

Lazar, thanks to Twitter, never quite left South Florida. He's kept in touch with friends, had a silly pissing match with Eating House Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli and sometimes crapped on South Florida's culinary scene. Here are a couple of good ones:

Yet fate is a cruel mistress, and after a few months in the Frozen North, Lazar returned to Miami, this time as food and beverage manager of the chic and exclusive Soho Beach House. We sat down with Lazar to talk about food, life and returning to Miami.

New Times: Now that Sustain has been closed a few months what do you take away from the experience?
Jonathan Lazar: I find it the most gratifying and enlightening experience I've ever had in my life. To build something from dirt into what Sustain became for me was amazing. You learn a lot, you take the good from the bad. In no way shape or form does it deter me or make me bitter. It just makes me want to be better and some day again open a new restaurant. I have a ton of concepts I want to do.

What's your job at Soho?
I work in the members-only part of the hotel which is the club, located on the second floor of the building. It's not open to the public, only members and their guests. I'm on the floor overseeing service, dealing with members' events.

How did you get the job?
I interviewed heavily, first with Soho House in New York. It shows a lot about the company. At the end of the day it's about our members, and we cater to their every need.

Why did you have some sudden spurts of hate for Miami?
There was always a vision of what could be down here and my sort of disdain was stemming from the fact that it wasn't happening quick enough. Miami has a ton of potential. It could become one of the major cities but it needs a lot of help. I came down because I left without finishing what I came down here to do. I really do love this place, I will always forever be a New York kid, but I love Miami. Miami is ready to become a major player.

So who in your opinion is doing it right in Miami?
Panther. Joel [Pollock] is beyond doing things correctly. I think Blue Collar is doing a great job and I think some of the new places that are opening or trying to open as we speak have a ton of potential. Places like The Butcher Shop, if they pull it off it could be a phenomenal concept. There's always this waiting time down here and it's weird because you would think with the money floating around people would try to open new things.

What's the hold up then?
It's the public accepting originality and difference which is one of the problems we landed in at Sustain. It's hard to educate without looking like you're preaching. You can try to do whatever you want, but if there are no asses in your seats you have nothing. The hospitality business is the hardest in the world. The amount of hours people in this town put in is incredible. I'm hoping the future is bright.

What's next for you?
I'm giving what I have to offer to Soho Beach House, and I'm excited about it. There's a ton of opportunity with the company and I'm there for the long haul. I'm young, I just turned 30 and there's plenty of time to do a bunch of other things. Now it's about education, perfecting and staying in a place that believes in me rather than working for myself.

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