Coral Gables Faces Community Divide Over Fate of Beloved Fritz and Franz Bierhaus

Javier Baños

Baños is the Editor of Gables Insider

In a move reminiscent of the contentious debates over the Coral Gables Country Club, the City Commission, led by Mayor Lago, has sparked a new controversy by opening bids for a new lease for the present location of Fritz and Franz Bierhaus. The decision has raised concerns among residents about the potential loss of a cherished community venue known for its family-friendly atmosphere and moderate pricing.

Fritz and Franz, a long-standing staple in Coral Gables, has been more than just a pub; it’s been a gathering place for sports fans and a celebratory spot for many in the community. Echoing the remarks during the meeting by Commissioners Menendez and Castro, Commissioner Fernandez, in a statement to this publication, reflected the community’s sentiment: “Fritz and Franz has been a cornerstone in our community. Its potential closure has left many residents disheartened.” He emphasized his commitment to investigating the situation and working with the City Manager to find a solution that preserves this key social venue.

However, the city’s handling of the lease renewal process has been met with skepticism. Reverberating the disputes surrounding the lease renewals of the Coral Gables Country Club and Le Parc Café, the City appears to be employing bureaucratic technicalities to shift responsibility away from itself, raising questions about its commitment to maintaining long-standing community relationships. The current operator of Fritz and Franz seems to have been caught off-guard by the city’s approach, highlighting a disconnect between city administration and community interests.

The situation at Fritz and Franz mirrors a broader challenge facing the city. While the city argues adherence to contractual obligations, residents see a pattern of disregard for community spaces that have long been integral to Coral Gables’ social fabric.

As the debate unfolds, nearby Bay 13 Brewery and Kitchen, a venue favored by Mayor Lago for fundraisers and election celebrations, is positioned to potentially benefit from Fritz and Franz’s possible closure. This raises concerns about the implications of such administrative decisions on local businesses and the community’s cultural landscape.

The unfolding story of Fritz and Franz Bierhaus is more than a lease renewal issue. As Coral Gables navigates this delicate situation, the outcome will not only determine the future of a beloved local establishment but also serve as a measure of the city’s commitment to upholding its community’s values and heritage.


31 thoughts on “Coral Gables Faces Community Divide Over Fate of Beloved Fritz and Franz Bierhaus

  1. As a native of Miami it breaks my heart to see our city continue to be sold to the highest bidder. Elected officials continue to neglect the obvious demands of the voters in exchange for shady backdoor deals with developers.

    Mayor Lago, you are in a position where you can choose to listen to the residents of your city and do what you know is right – or you can go down as another gutless, greedy, and corrupt elected official.
    The choice is yours.

    Year after year the heritage of Miami gets stripped away. Our most cherished landmarks get replaced with overpriced, mediocre, cookie-cutter establishments and our shady politicians get richer and richer sucking the soul out of this city.

    Fritz and Franz has remained a pillar of our community for 20+ years. They’ve organized charity events, provided a stage for some great blues and jazz bands, and never missed a World Cup. Not to mention they make the best chicken schnitzen and potato salad in the city.

    It’s safe to say that Fritz and Franz truly capture the spirit of our city, and most residents would agree. Don’t let this landmark become suffer the same fat as Scottie’s Landing and Tobacco Road.

  2. The city beautiful should consider changing its name to Corrupt Gables. This is shameful and embarrassing. We know exactly what the city is up too.

  3. The city beautiful should consider changing its name to Corrupt Gables. This is shameful and embarrassing. We know exactly what the city is up too.

  4. The salient sentence, found in the second to last paragraph of Mr. Baños’ report:

    “As the debate unfolds, nearby Bay 13 Brewery and Kitchen – a venue favored by Mayor Lago for fundraisers and election celebrations – is positioned to potentially benefit from Fritz and Franz’s possible closure”.

    Any questions?

  5. To set the record strait:
    As per lease contract with the city of Coral Gables, Fritz & Franz Bierhaus had until Nov. 30th to let the city know that we would like to continue as a tenant. The City tells everyone that we did not bring in a “proposal”.
    The city sent a letter of nonrenewal of lease on the 27th of September…”Two month before our deadline was up”!
    Usually, and this was the process the last 20 year, the city would ask if we would like continue, since we have written in our lease TWO FIVE YEAR OPTIONS, and than we would work on a new lease agreement. Not this time. However on October 4th we did send an e-mail to the Asset Manager that we would like to take our “two five year option”

    As of Friday, Dec. 15th 3pm The City of Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago, has our proposal as well!

  6. @Ip, have you been downtown lately? You live there, right? Looks pretty vibrant to me. What yesteryear do you refer to? Before Covid(BC)? The foot traffic downtown now far exceeds that of BC. Also, the vacancy rate is better than BC. Certainly, within the good range of market parameters.

  7. F&F is a staple in this community. It’s a location where anyone can kick back in a low key, comfortable atmosphere and enjoy great German food and beer at reasonable rates (one of the few). The international festivities held here are by far one of the liveliest and fun (Oktoberfest, World Cup, etc.). It’s also a place where local institutions hold their events in a casual setting, such as the annual award ceremonies for the Coral Gables High Baseball team. We love the owner, Harald, and his son. They do so much for our community. The fact we even get to see and mingle with them there gives this establishment an even more personal & small town feel amongst the robotic and impersonal nature of these higher end restaurants overtaking the city. Removing this restaurant is another blow to the residents of Coral Gables, like what happened with Liberty Cafe and BB’s. The landlord/tenant relationship, the lease termination/renewal process in these cases, between the city and the owners of these businesses, do not seem as transparent as it should — the business owners always seem to be fighting for their right to stay while the city either claims some form of alleged contractual technicality, or appears to not offer these beloved tenants an extension to their existing leases for whatever reason. It leaves the majority of the public fighting on behalf of the business. It always seems to be a “he said/she said” dispute between both parties when a public hearing on the matter, between city officials and the tenants, would greatly help provide clarity to us, tax-paying Coral Gables residents. What is clear, to me, is the city needs to remove itself as owner and landlord of commercial real estate, amongst other things. This city is losing its appeal with long-standing residents as it tries to morph from the quaint and charming place we love and cherish into something we don’t recognize.

  8. I drive down from Ft. Lauderdale not only to perform at F+F , also for the Great food, people and vibe that F+F provides. I’ve known HARALD since he opened the doors as Satchmo’s and I have brought countless numbers of visitors from all of the World to visit this eatery that always provides a feel that is disappearing in our communities as they grow and loose their sense of purpose. I’m sure , I’m sure that this could be worked out for the greater good of community if both parties revisit the conversation with the goal of keeping F+F open . Don’t let this happen to another landmark because of failure to communicate, show your community that your above this and make a difference. Make it happen

  9. I lament the loss of Biscayne Cafeteria, Harald’s Mozart Stube, Biga Bakery & the Melody Inn. Will be trying Harald’s schnitzel again soon.

  10. Seems like Mr. Baños is moderating comments again… I’ll simplify my initial comment in hopes that this one doesn’t get moderated.

    This isn’t news, its a narrative. All you need to do is go back and watch the Commission meeting. Tune in to item F-2 and listen to the City Asset Manager’s comments regarding this issue. Don’t let Mr. Baños tell you what to think and definitely don’t listen to the folks going around saying that the Mayor is to blame for this. That’s just what Mr. Baños, Ariel, Melissa, and Kirk want. And don’t let him tell you he doesn’t moderate posts when he most clearly does. Let’s see how long it takes him to approve my initial comment after he sees this one. We’re waiting Mr. Baños!

  11. The vibrancy of Downtown Coral Gables, once the heartbeat of our community, has waned in the aftermath of the pandemic. Amid far too frequent empty streets, Fritz and Franz Bierhaus often stands as a beacon of energy, a place that has consistently brought life and a warmth to our city. More than just a restaurant, it’s a gathering ground for South Floridians near and far, enriching the tapestry of our City Beautiful.

    As a downtown resident whose life—personal and professional–is interwoven with its ebbs and flows, I see Fritz and Franz as an indispensable thread in the city’s fabric, drawing in crowds that bring life into our streets and bolster a dynamic business environment. Its enduring presence has cemented its status as not just a locale but a legacy within South Florida. Lease renewals must, therefore, not only approach the fair market but also encapsulate the establishment’s intrinsic value to Coral Gables’ spirit and prosperity.

    The visible vacancies and delayed launches of new businesses highlight the urgency for intentional urban revitalization. Losing Fritz and Franz would not just be a loss of a venue, but the loss of our downtown’s pulse.

    I believe we stand at a crossroads where the essence of community is paramount. Fritz and Franz, and places like it, which offer inclusive, memory-making spaces, are the lifeblood of our collective resurgence.

    I urge our city leaders to recognize Fritz and Franz’s role as more than a tenant but as a cornerstone of our community and communal revival. The decision regarding its tenure should transcend mere economic transactions and reflect a commitment to the city’s soul.

    As we strive to reawaken the lost vibrancy of yesteryears, let our decisions mirror the community’s aspirations for a revived downtown. To preserve Fritz and Franz is to preserve the very essence of our great city, ensuring we stride towards a future reflective of our rich heritage and shared dreams.

  12. Goral Gables:

    Name your price and give FF the right of first refusal. If they do not accept what the city wants as rent, then let others bid. Do not blackmail the tenants with indications as to how to improve their business if they want to stay.
    It does seem, however, that the powers that be in the city do not give a damn about the longevity and popularity of any venue, especially if the venue is not considered upscale.

  13. Quien: The controversy was started when The asset manager of the City of Coral Gables ask me back in August how much I am going to Invest since the other place in the same building is investing up to 2 million dollars. Regarding the selling…You don’t have the facts.
    Monk: Back in 1999 when I took over this place, after the first tenant failed………… everyone told that I was crazy taking on this lease and that the lease was to high! City Manager Jack Eats at that time told me “ I don’t care how you do it, but create business to this side of the city” …….the new the parking Garage failed to generate income for the city! And feeding the Homeless during Pandemic, does not count as doing something good. Milking the city? You supplementing me? ……Just for the Coral Gables Of Duty Police we have paid over $ 28,000 and the fee for the Plaza was around $ 11,000 and that we pack the parking garage when there is and event does not count either? Get your facts strait Please!

    Gerry L: I do agree with you and this would have never happened if the city would have ask me if I want to renew, my answer would have been yes! Let’s sit down and work out the new Lease agreement! We waited 8 weeks to have a meeting with the city! Like everyone else who wants this space we will put in a bid for it!

    James Green: really?……….less provocative drinking and noise generating venue. Our Venues have generated more amount of taxes collected than the average family business our size!
    There is no question that there are differing views. On the factual side the city does need to optimize the financial benefits ……..We never got to talk about Terms and Financial issues!

    Unnecessary Drama: Anyone hiding behind a fictitious name does not deserve my responds!

  14. Wow… How many facts and details did you leave out of this post, Mr. Baños? This isn’t news… It’s a narrative. So for those who did not watch the Commission meeting last week, allow me to clarify a few details for you.

    During the meeting last Tuesday, the City Asset Manager (who I applaud for being one of the most dedicated and honorable city employees) addressed this issue in a transparent manner before the Commission. As Ms. Sardiñas clarified, the ownership of Fritz and Franz placed the business for sale not too long ago. Since the business was for sale, the city thought it prudent and wise to put out a request for proposal (RFP) for a new tenant for the city owned space. Which, by the way, the owners of Fritz and Franz can take part in. The city, as the legal owner of the commercial space where Fritz and Franz is located, has the LEGAL RIGHT to explore other lease agreements with other entities upon the end of a previous lease agreement. If that doesn’t make sense, then let me create a scenario that would make a little more sense for some.

    You rent an apartment. Your rental agreement ends after 12 months. Your landlord can either agree to renew your lease, or they can choose not to renew your lease and you have no choice but to seek other housing options. Makes sense now? The only difference here is that the city is not a private entity like your landlord and so residents and the Fritz and Franz ownership resort to throwing blame at the city because it’s easier to make a stink of things than actually tell the truth about the whole situation. Fritz and Franz isn’t being kicked out, the city is just open to other opportunities. Fritz and Franz can submit their own proposal and can still remain. But no… let’s just blame the mayor and make it look like it’s his fault.

    Mr. Baños, you should be ashamed of yourself (which I catch myself saying in almost all my comments) for contributing to the false narratives presented by this situation. How dare you attempt to put blame upon the Mayor for this. How dare you use another business like Bay 13 Brewery as a pawn in your failing game of chess. (More like checkers, because you clearly lack the strategic knowledge to play a good game of chess…)

    How dare you tell residents what to think instead of how to think… We see right through your antics. Man up. The same goes for Ariel, Melissa, and Kirk.

  15. This is a controversy created by the Tenant who initially refused an approach by CG to renew the lease while tenant was thinking of selling. Now, his son is interested so he forgets he told CG to go away earlier!
    What is right is up to City government but for sure, there should be a rent increase to local market rates. If Tenant refuses that rate, then it should be put out to bid.
    BTW, since we know there are some lobbyists who now are also restaurateurs, City would be wise to pass a rule that says to them choose whether you want to be a lobbyist or restaurateur in CG – both are NOT acceptable!

  16. It is very easy for politicians and managers to hide in the basket of leases and “financial return” to the CG taxpayers, and for that to be the poster boy reason for more nefarious motivations of nepotism or favoritism. It is much harder to delve into the nitty gritty of lease terms and negotiations with a known and in this case beloved institution and work through the real issues to get to a reasonable conclusion.
    Whatever are the issues with Fritz and Franz, the Current Political and Administrative powers that be do not provide confidence that they will come to a sound conclusion; Le Parc has changed hands- result is higher prices and lesser quality. Burger Bob’s is gone and after more than a year, nothing! If Coral Gables wants happy constituents, give us all the information and financial truth about these leases with businesses beloved by many – including this constituent- we aren’t stupid and we can handle the truth!
    It really feels as if these unique Coral Gables institutions are being traded for higher returning companies the names of which no one can remember.

  17. The city of Coral Gables has many strengths, but acting as landlord — and operating venues — is not among their best. So, when the property commonly known as Fritz and Franz plaza comes up for lease review, it’s bound to spark controversy.

    Personally, we have always favored establishments in the Gables where the owner is on site, offering more of a small town feeling for those that frequent the venue. Sadly, we’ve lost some of our best over the decades, only to be replaced by franchises that often present consistent quality, but a less personal and more distant personality to patrons.

    Harald is a wonderful, affable host, a hard-working entrepreneur who genuinely cares about bringing good food and world-class special events to the city. It’s encouraging to see the family looking forward to the next generation taking over, building a long-lasting legacy on the property. This counts as a strong point in their favor.

    Among all the serious challenges of running a restaurant, it’s especially challenging to have the city as landlord. As this process of re-evaluation takes place, let’s ensure that the procedure is absolutely fair and gives the present tenant a respectable chance to continue serving the citizens of Coral Gables, to fortify a living legacy and to retain the owner-operator presence that sets this venue apart from so many others in our evolving city.

    Fritz and Franz is the definition of a local landmark — and worth fighting for as an iconic thread in the fabric of Coral Gables.

  18. Why the unnecessary drama with this article insinuating that Mayor Lago secretly wants to get rid of Fritz and Franz??? How about you just report the facts? Fritz’s and franz has been milking the city’s kindness with a subsidized below market rent that we the citizens have been supplementing.

    Why not send the lease up for bid and let the residents and commissioners decide what is best for our city?

    Only memories I have of Fritz and Franz is them blocking off the sidewalks and charging people to stand on public property during the World Cup soccer games. The guy is a shark and has never done anything for the community other than take advantage.

    I’ve never seen him sponsor or donate anything to the city or community.

    I wonder if Ariel or Melissa stand to benefit from keeping Fritz and Franz open??

  19. Fritz & Franz has dedicated years of public service entertainment food & sports has held fundraisers for several organizations in our community the city is making it difficult for family owned & operated venues to function & prosper Why you ask Politics vote next election & rid our city beautiful of corruption & greedy politicians

  20. Please leave this open air community establishment intact. We don’t need any more fancy restaurants.

  21. FAIR.
    First, a concurrence with Baños concern over the treatment of Fritz & Franz and the ongoing tendency to jettison proven winners in favor of upscale losers. Fritz & Franz Oktoberfest was been an appropriately rustic, stalwart downtown venue for 30 years, starting when there was absolutely nothing going on downtown as the city leadership was allergic to any outdoor dining and entertainment other than the rare city-sanctioned festivals. Oktoberfest marked the arrival of the Fall season with a traditional annual festival just as you would find in downtowns all over the US and Europe, including a modest outdoor beer garden featuring Live polka music for a short time span. Apparently in 2022 the city made them choose between a permit for either the World Cup OR Oktoberfest (can’t have too much fun in one year). Oktoberfest was not Ultra, it was a fun, community-oriented tradition. So now the move is to replace it with what? Another Gramercy or “upscale” restaurant? I think we enjoy plenty of options for these already.

    There was absolutely no reason for Baños to take a swipe at Bay13 just because he chooses to associate it with one politician. Bay13 and Three Fold Cafe on Giralda are owned by the same proprietor and are both incredibly well-run venues the City is lucky to have. Bay13 and Fritz & Franz could not be more different and do not serve the same clientele simply because they sell beer. What they do share in common is that they successfully activated two of the most forlorn, dead spaces in downtown and persevered through the pandemic’s devastating impact on food and beverage businesses downtown. Bay13 has created something out of nothing at their Alhambra location – activating a lifeless, barren plaza at the eastern edge of the business district. Please don’t use your publication to denigrate the great business owners who work so hard to create successful venues downtown simply to grind a political ax. People are sick of this brand of politics.

  22. Don’t let it happen! Fritz and Franz has been a great place to go for so long . . .

    Please! Let it stay there!

  23. it’s a restaurant lease renewal, not an existential crisis. keep it in perspective. the issue will be that people who have not eaten or drank there in years (or ever) are going to profess opinions. great, but this is as straightforward as it gets. it’s a restaurant lease renewal. happens dozens of times every eeek in souFL, thousands of time every week in FL. city’s involvement only makes it harder to find an operator to take over. that’s the tough part: finding as n operator to take over.

  24. Fritz and Franz is a landmark…For it to leave would be like losing a grandfather..Someone you have known all your life…Its beer and food are reminiscient of great days of our past…What is left on miracle mile area that is from our past??What other place has that Bierhaus charm??
    Lets keep Fritz and Franz..

  25. Fritz and Franz is an icon of coral gables , for residents , former residents like me and out of towners . “Nationalizing “ sites like the CGCC and now possibly the F&F makes no sense and will inevitably end in a slow death of gables ‘s originalities and attractions .

  26. Another political move that will result in failure. Still waiting on a new burger bobs! For those complaining about noise in the downtown please realize that you bought or rented in the downtown and noise and fun comes with the territory.

    The petition online is started by the owner of Fritz and Franz that speaks mountains after the city’s presentation at the city commission meeting.

  27. Restaurants come and go. Residents please support Fritz & Franz, at the very least for having been in that same location since the building was inaugurated back when the East area of downtown was almost deserted, through Covid and the hardships of no business. Hopefully, with our emails to the Mayor, F&F stay put for years to come. We need business partners in the Gables that are solid and long term neighbors. I haven’t eaten there in years but I still appreciate the stability a perennial establishment gives to life in our city.

  28. Fritz and Franz may be beloved to some. For others they have been a source of noise and disarray during their promotions, notably including Octoberfest. Nearby residents are unlikely to be dismayed were they to be replaced with a less provocative drinking and noise generating venue.

    There is no question that there are differing views. On the factual side the city does need to optimize the financial benefits from owning such properties. To use provocative language describing what may well be a normal lease decision seems to be unnecessarily provocative.

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