Restaurant News & Reviews

Historic S&S Diner faces eviction

Simon Elbaz in a 2006 photo in front of his S&S Diner at 1757 NE Second Ave.
Simon Elbaz in a 2006 photo in front of his S&S Diner at 1757 NE Second Ave. Miami Herald File

Another piece of Old Miami may be disappearing to make way for another high rise.

The historic S&S Diner in downtown Miami — open since 1938 — may be evicted on a technicality as soon as Thursday, the restaurant’s owner said Wednesday. A judge will review the case Thursday morning in Coral Gables to decide whether the restaurant is in breach of its lease.

“We are facing a bad situation. They want to throw us out,” said Simon Elbaz, the restaurant’s owner since 1999.

Elbaz said he signed a lease in 2010 that included an option for him to renew in January 2015, which would give him an extension through December 2019. He said he exercised the option and has paid faithfully.

But the current landlord, a company called 17th and Second Avenue Properties Corp. that purchased the S&S building in 2012, said it never agreed to the extension, according to court documents.

Now it wants the diner out.

In April, the company filed suit against the S&S, saying the diner’s lease had expired at the end of 2014 and that Elbaz had refused to move out when told his month-to-month lease would not be renewed in March. Elbaz is fighting those claims in court.

Elbaz was to make a payment on his rent while the judge reviewed the case. But he said he was out of town and attempted to pay a day late and that the owners refused payment and moved to evict the diner.

“We are being treated with no respect,” Elbaz said.

17th and Second may not own the S&S building for much longer. The company has agreed to sell it and other neighboring properties it owns for $33 million, according to the Real Deal. That sale is set to close next July, restaurant manager Maria Linares said.

Miami’s Omni area has seen a wave of investment as commercial and residential developers launch projects, leading to higher land prices and rents. It’s not clear what plans the new would-be owner, Israel-based ASRR Capital, has for the site, the Real Deal reported. Zoing would allow for commercial, residential and retail development.

S&S Diner is a time capsule for Depression-era Miami. Color-tinted Art Deco glass lines the facade of the tiny restaurant, which has 23 stools around a horseshoe counter where the scents of fresh cherry pie and home cooking still waft. Its design was typical of Depression-era design and is so rare it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

The city of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board went a step further in 2003 and conferred its own historic legal protection on it to ensure it would not be demolished and the facade preserved for generations to come. Anyone wanting to develop the building would at least have to maintain the restaurant’s facade.

Elbaz also was the original owner of the S&S Diner South, which is also being forced out of its location after the current owner couldn’t agree on a new lease. (Elbaz sold his stake in that business in 2009.) His sole focus has been the original S&S Diner, which now faces an uncertain future.

“I love this place,” said Elbaz, a Canadian-born Miami resident of the last 23 years. “We want to continue the tradition here.”