Magnum Lounge Closes, Bar Lab Set to Take Over

Magnum Lounge has closed. 

The 79th Street piano bar and restaurant closed last Saturday evening, with loyal patrons getting in a few songs before last call. 

The restaurant's management took a tongue-in-cheek approach by posting a video of regular Magnum performers Carl Ivey and Russell Burton singing "New York, New York" with the caption, "Start spreading the news, we're closing today." The beloved bar was one of the few in Miami where people could sing along to live piano accompaniment in a friendly setting.

The beloved restaurant and lounge racked up many New Times Best Of awards in past years, being named best bar in 2013, best fried chicken in 2010, best place for cocktails in 2006, best open-mic night in 2005, and best restaurant for a romantic dinner in 2003.

Magnum closed once before, in fall of 2014, after Avra Jain and Joe Del Vecchio purchased Magnum from Jeffrey Landsman. The bar, one of the oldest establishments of its kind in Miami now that the original Tobacco Road has been knocked down, was cleaned up and given a restoration before reopening in spring 2015.

Jain and Del Vecchio's primary motivation for the purchase was to preserve the bar. In a previous interview with New Times, Jain said, "When Joe and I bought Magnum, previously El Toro, we were motivated to make sure that it remained a part of this historic community. "

At first Jain, who is best known for her restoration of the Vagabond Hotel in the MiMo District, reopened the bar with the same staff and entertainment, after repairs and cleanup of the space. However, some people pointed out the the renovation didn't go far enough. "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."

With that in mind, Jain decided to tap Bar Lab's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi to operate the establishment, calling them "a group respected in this community. A group that cares about neighborhood."

With Magnum closing, the Bar Lab team is now focusing on the turnaround. Although Orta and Zvi remain tight-lipped on the project, they have confirmed the changes will take place quickly and the bar could reopen as early as this winter.

A Bar Lab takeover of Magnum could be just the catalyst for the 79th Street corridor to become the next trendy eating and drinking neighborhood. The once mainly commercial area of town has been filling up with quirky, independently run bars and restaurants including wine bar Bar Meli, Mediterranean eatery Mina's Mediterraneo, vegan Choices Cafe, Firito Taco, German Schnitzel Haus, Italian bookstore/wine bar Veni Vidi Vici, and gourmet market Marky's lining the main corridor that connects Biscayne Boulevard to the Kennedy Causeway. 

Not everyone is thrilled with the new takeover, however. Burton, who performed at Magnum with his musical partner and best friend Ivey since 2004, calls the change very sad. "What was once the only real piano and neighborhood bar is now gone. Nothing, no matter how upscale, will ever be able to replicate what is now gone."

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