Sean Bennett, who lives and works on Miami Beach, doesn’t venture onto mainland Miami often. But he recently found himself at Gramps, a new bar in Wynwood.
“You just can’t find places like this on the beach,” Bennett said. “It’s nice to finally discover a place in Miami where you can find a nice local crowd that is interesting and you can actually talk to.”
In recent years, Wynwood has slowly evolved into a destination where locals who eschew the velvet ropes, dress codes and expensive bottle service of Miami Beach and downtown Miami clubs come to hang. Venues like Electric Pickle and Wood Tavern have found success capitalizing on the allure of Wynwood’s fashionable grittiness.
Kareem Tabsch, owner of the popular Wynwood theater O Cinema, says Gramps is a “perfect and welcomed addition” to the neighborhood and says it is one in a recent trend of businesses in the area that are creating a shift similar to that of New York neighborhood SoHo.
"Like SoHo, Wynwood has moved from a community of solely art galleries and studios to a true arts and entertainment district where visitors can take in art in our galleries and collections, stunning street murals and a fantastic mix of restaurants, coffee houses and bars,” Tabsch says.
Gramps, which opened in December, is perhaps the most ambitious effort in the neighborhood yet. In typical Wynwood repurposing fashion, Gramps occupies a large former sewing-table factory and an adjoining undeveloped grass lot. Owner Adam Gersten says the space was the only one large enough to fit all he envisioned. He says he chose Wynwood because of its proximity to many major Miami neighborhoods but also for its status as a cultural hub. Wynwood “has always been an interesting place for people who are from here because a lot of people who have been successful in the arts have some connection to this area,” Gersten says.
Gersten’s lifelong dream to open a bar began when he was working at a guitar store run by Stan Lynch, drummer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, while studying in Gainesville. There he was able to secure a string of DJ and promoting gigs, and he eventually took his efforts back to Miami. He would later study law at St. Thomas University’s Law School. He practiced law in Miami for five years, until he could secure the financing he would need to open Gramps. Some South Floridians may recognize Gersten’s name: His father is David M. Gersten, a former judge with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal in West Miami-Dade.
Gramps bartender Trevor Alberts moved from New York City to Miami two months ago to pursue his trade here because the trend of what he calls the new cocktail renaissance – a resurgence of traditional cocktails, sometimes with new twists — had finally arrived in Miami. He chose to work at Gramps because he saw the strong potential for growth in the neighborhood.
“Of all the burgeoning neighborhoods in Miami, I think Wynwood is going to be the biggest one for food and drink in the next 5 years,” Alberts says.
The bar is unpretentious and inviting, featuring craft cocktails created in collaboration with Richard Knapp, a friend of Gersten’s and owner of popular Manhattan bar Mother’s Ruin. Two of their featured cocktails include the Fort Union, a spicy rye drink topped with Budweiser and garnished with beef jerky, and the Jewban Princess, a brandy cocktail made with Manischewitz kosher wine syrup and affectionately named after the Jewish-Cuban hybrid that is common to Miami.
Despite the effort placed into the cocktail program, Gersten stresses that more than anything he wants Gramps to be a place where a person can get a drink, whether it be a beer or a cocktail, without feeling judged.
In addition to the bar, Gramps has two other spaces, an indoor multi-purpose space behind the bar dedicated to concerts and dance parties, and a large outdoor space that acts as a beer garden and will also host everything from movie screenings to live theater. The programming often features local talent and Gersten hopes to create a workshop-like environment where local artists and musicians can approach him with their ideas and provide a venue for them.
More importantly, Gersten hopes to create a hotspot where Miami locals feel at home in and lives up to the unofficial motto of Gramps: “We’ve been here forever since the day we opened.”