Food News

Tobacco Road Redux: On Land, Sea, and Wheels

Yesterday was a big news day for Tobacco Road, Miami's oldest and most iconic bar, restaurant, and music venue.

What just a few weeks ago sounded like the end of the Road (pun intended) has now turned into a host of open doors and possibilities.

See also: Tobacco Road's New Location Announced on Kickstarter Campaign

At a news conference held yesterday afternoon, Joel Riviera, Tobacco Road's general manager, announced he has secured a contract to purchase the assets of Tobacco Road and, with the guidance of current Tobacco Road partner Patrick Gleber, has locked in an option to lease a location just a beer bottle's throw from the current location at 69 SW Seventh St.

To assist their efforts, Riviera, along with a group of Tobacco Road employees, has initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise an initial $50,000 to help fund the removal of various pieces of the original bar, including the neon sign, the patio entrance, and the 30-foot wooden bar. Altogether, Riviera estimates it will take about $1.2 million to open the new Tobacco Road, which will have a 36-year lease.

Riviera, who started his Tobacco Road journey as a bar back when he was 18 years old, figures the new location could be operational within six months to a year. Asked if he ever thought he would wind up taking over the bar, Riviera quipped, "I've always been an ambitious person," before confiding that he instantly fell in love with the Road. "I've been working here most of my life, and there's a magic here, but it's not really in the building. It's in the employees, the musicians, and the customers."

Besides plans to move the Miami location, Tobacco Road has partnered with Norwegian Cruise Line to open a signature bar on its newest ship, Norwegian Escape.

According to Simon Murray, entertainment director/new build planning and implementation at Norwegian Cruise Line, the Tobacco Road Bar will incorporate the Road's iconic features -- right down to the neon sign. Memorabilia and photographs will showcase the bar's history. "We want to tell the story of Tobacco Road -- from Al Capone through today, it's a great one."

Tobacco Road at sea will feature a selection of cocktails created by Leo Holtzman, the talented young mixologist who founded Cocktail Collection upstairs at the Road. Holtzman says he's grateful for the seven months he's taken over the upstairs bar. Although the bartender will resume a cocktail consulting program, he's on the lookout for a new bar to helm, but he admits "it's going to be really hard to re-create the spirit of this place."

And, of course, the Tobacco Road food truck will make its debut at this Saturday's closing party. Hand-painted by local artist Tragek of the FDC Crew, the truck will hold court at Tobacco Road's original parking lot and will also offer delivery throughout Brickell.

But, through all of this good news, the fact remains that the original building that housed Tobacco Road will be torn down, along with the memories and ghosts of all who passed through its doors. And have no doubt there are ghosts. Just ask Riviera, who has been the last person in the bar many times. "Sometimes I'll be all alone, and the lights will go out or I'll hear a snare drum and get goose bumps. But I just tell whoever is playing that I'll see them and the Road tomorrow."

As Patrick Gleber said when asked about the end of this particular Road: "It's progress. It's Miami."

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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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