River Cities Gazette

Miami Springs restaurant closing remains a mystery

BAD NEWS: This shut-off notice from the Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Authority was found attached to the Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge which is shrouded in a cloud of mystery over its closing.
BAD NEWS: This shut-off notice from the Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Authority was found attached to the Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge which is shrouded in a cloud of mystery over its closing.
Gazette Photo/WALLY CLARK

River Cities Gazette

No one seems to know the fate of Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge at 1 Curtiss Pkwy just off the Circle in Miami Springs. The business was open sporadically during December for special parties but other than that the doors were locked.

Last week, a notice on the front door from the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department dated 12/31/13 read: “The account holder at this service address has requested a disconnection of water service.”

There is no posted sign to indicate why the restaurant is closed or what the future has in store for that location. The Gazette was unable to obtain owner contact information.

The building is owned by Carlos Santana, who also manages the Miami Springs Country Club and he has subleased the restaurant several times since buying the property about 10 years ago.

By phone, Santana said the current owners still have an up-to-date lease. “They are the tenants until they return the key to me,” he said.

According to an August 2013 Gazette interview, the current lessee is Jorge Cuesta, a third-generation chef from Cuba. Managing operations was Giancarlo Sanchez, who has 20 years of restaurant management experience in South Florida. Sanchez said the plan was to serve classic and traditional Cuban cuisine.

For almost 40 years, the landmark restaurant was operated under the name Holleman’s, but the sign came down a few months ago and was replaced by Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge.

According to longtime resident Randy McGee, before the restaurant and bar became Holleman’s, the location had two different names: Ken’s Lounge and Dirty Nellie’s.

Bud Holleman and his partner Demont Seagrave took over in 1976 and operated the restaurant for almost 27 years. When Santana bought the property, Holleman took a year off before taking a job at the Miami Springs Country Club pro shop where he has worked for the last 10 years.

“I thought taking my name down was a good idea,” said Holleman. “They needed a new concept. My method of operation was passé, it was history.”

According to Holleman, his name on the building implied a certain type of operation and that disappeared when he left. Nevertheless, he thought the new owners had a good idea by establishing a Latin restaurant in Miami Springs.

“The prices were right and the food was good,” said Holleman who ate there twice. “However, management was totally, totally horrible. They had no idea how to run the front of the house and take care of customers.”

Holleman said one mistake was the restaurant opening under the Holleman’s sign and then closing soon after for renovations without putting a sign on the business to tell customers what was going on.

“That was a certain mind-set,” said Holleman. “It’s arrogance.”

While residents always appear to welcome new businesses, conversely longtime locals are also steeped in tradition and like things the way they were for past memories of good times.

“The only thing consistent these days is change and inconsistency. A memorable place has gone to ruins because of a my-way-or-the-highway attitude,” said Linda Collavo, who has been the main impetus behind karaoke nights at Holleman’s for many years.

Collavo said Holleman’s was once renowned and frequented by baseball greats that included Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench; and golfers Miller Barber, Bobby Nichols and Jack Nicklaus.

The bar was also a watering hole for local sports celebrities such as hometown boy and NFL Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks; Dolphins Don Strock, Jim Mandich and Jake Scott; jockeys Bill Hartack and Willie Shoemaker; astronaut Jack Swigert; and singer Glen Campbell.

“Celebrities were our friends and always returned to the warmth of this small town and this great restaurant,” said Collavo. “Tuesday through Saturday there was always a full dance band playing on stage.

“That’s why people take it so personal; it’s not just a building, it is years and years of memories and that Holleman’s sign was our welcome home as we came across the bridge. Clearly the rich history of Miami Springs is being lost to those who have just arrived and think they know it all. If they did, they would not have a grand opening and closing in such a short span of time.”

When asked if he would go into the restaurant business again, Holleman said, “Not if you paid me a million dollars.”

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