July is proving to be a bad month on Collins Avenue's 23rd block. Last week, Tom Colicchio announced his Beachcraft at the 1 Hotel South Beach would close at the end of this year. And now Stephen Starr's the Continental, a retro oasis tucked into the revamped Ankara Motel, has shuttered, according to Philly.com. The Philadelphia restaurateur confirmed his Miami Beach location closed after dinner service this past Sunday.
"I think it’s the location," Starr said. "It was challenging getting people to come that were locals."
The death knell of two big-name Beach restaurants in the span of two weeks might signal the end of South Beach as a destination for celebrity chefs and restaurateurs.
"The Beach isn't necessarily the best place for a restaurant anymore," Starr said, though he noted his partnership with Justin Smillie at Upland in SoBe's South of Fifth neighborhood is doing well.
The Continental opened in late 2015 after Starr undertook a $6 million revamp of the space. Towering glass windows surrounded a midcentury-modern dining room filled with green and blue banquettes abutting red Formica tables and verdant faux foliage. The Cadillac-pink menu offered fried bufala mozzarella, a build-your-own sushi box, sizzling Chinese-American dishes, and not a hint of stuffiness.
What will come next for Starr, who lords over Bal Harbour's Makoto and Le Zoo, is unclear. The restaurateur in recent years has taken a turn from opening concept places to ones driven by chefs such as Smillie and Peter Serpico, formerly of Momofuku Ko, whose eponymous place sits in central Philly a few blocks from the Delaware River.
The key to working with such talents is letting them do what they do best but also setting up a kitchen that allows them to replicate it flawlessly night in and night out. Still, Miami Beach is proving to be a tough sell.
"Most of these guys want to stay in New York or L.A.," Starr said. "We have to convince them to move to Miami and stay."
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