Latin Cafe 2000 has, in a way, seen it all. Two decades ago, the Edgewater neighborhood where it resides was a different place. Few ventured to Biscayne Boulevard at night. There were only a few residents and high-rises dotting a landscape where developers now buy property for tens of millions of dollars. It's probably why Jose and
Everything seemed fine until six weeks ago when one of Latin Cafe 2000's longtime managers, Juan Pablo Silva, opened Latin Cafe Biscayne only three blocks away. The similarity has wreaked havoc on the older place's business, Elsia More claims. First, she said, the newer restaurant used her pictures to populate its online presence. After its doors opened, she found longtime customers coming into her restaurant to congratulate her on the new location they'd just tried. Delivery drivers would pop into her restaurant looking to pick up orders placed with the other one. Then, one-star reviews purportedly of her establishment began popping up on Yelp and Google.
"I've had to spend thousands of dollars to straighten it all out," More said. "I talked to an attorney to see what can be done, but because the two names are actually different we're stuck."
How More and her former employee came to such an impasse is unclear. Her husband Jose owned a small cafe outside of Havana before fleeing Cuba for Spain in 1962. There, he worked in restaurants while awaiting a U.S. visa. More came to Miami in 1970 and went on to open a fleet of restaurants across town that at one point included seven Latin Cafes. Five years ago, as More grew older, he decided to sell the franchise license, which Eric Castellanos purchased for an undisclosed sum. The Mores retained the Edgewater Latin Cafe (they also sold the land in 2016 for $13 million), while Castellanos took over the one at Coral Way and LeJeune Road. He recently opened another in Brickell boasting the Instagram-friendly
Though Jose More passed in May, it appears Juan Pablo Silva and partner Reynaldo Padron had been planning this move for some time. The pair filed incorporation documents under the name Latin Cafe Biscayne with the state in 2016. Interviewed inside his restaurant, Silva said he'd worked at the original location as a manager since 2003 and left after Jose More died, then later claimed he was fired. "She said she didn't need me anymore," he said before asking to call his attorney and disappearing into his office. More said Silva, who never complained or voiced any concerns, quit after her husband died.
Following that brief interview, neither Silva nor his attorney responded to multiple requests for comment.
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Miami restaurants taking each others' names and ideas is nothing new. The owners of El Palacio de Los Jugos keep attorneys on speed dial for any time an enterprising restaurateur decides to open a "Zoe El Palacio de Los Jugos" or something else with the now iconic cafeteria's sprawling lunchroom-style layout. The polenta fries Michael Schwartz served at Nemo on South Beach in the 1990s can be found at Big Pink (Schwartz and Big Pink owner Myles Chefetz were partners), Bagatelle, Brickell's Figata, and who knows where else. Florida's corporate-records database shows nearly two dozen companies across the state named Latin Cafe in some variation.
More said she has no plans to take legal action. She also said she has an issue with a restaurant three blocks away serving similar food — but trying to piggyback on her reputation crosses the line.
"In life, you have to make a name for yourself," More said. "Now they're trying to make money off mine."