In the Wake of Le Parc Café Closure: Uncertainty Looms Over Coral Gables Country Club’s Dining Future

Javier Baños

Baños is the Editor of Gables Insider

For a dozen years, the modest yet inviting eatery nestled at the entrance of the Granada Golf Course within the Coral Gables Country Club served as a cherished haven for local residents seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown life. Under the stewardship of Liberty Group at first and more recently Fresh AN LLC, (under the name Le Parc Café) the location had become synonymous with warm hospitality, good coffee, and hearty breakfasts, making it a favorite gathering spot for families and friends to unwind after a jog, leisurely walk, or a quick round of golf. However, the sun has set on this cherished institution, leaving the Coral Gables community pondering its culinary future once more.

In less than 13 months, the idyllic charm of Le Parc Café has faded away. Despite the diligent efforts of Commissioner Menendez and the City Commission, an agreement or lease extension couldn’t be brokered between the Coral Gables Community Recreation Department and the cafe’s proprietors. A recent email sent by the family, who preferred not to comment further, sheds light on a contentious relationship between the City and the vendors daring to do business at this location.

The email paints a troubling picture: “It has become very apparent to us that despite assuring us and the Coral Gables community that the City wants to support small family-owned businesses and wanted a mom-and-pop café in the Le Parc space, what they really want is a large hospitality group who can absorb such astounding figures. No small business can survive and flourish under such circumstances. We do not believe that an additional extension will resolve the issues as the Asset Manager and City Manager have made it clear that they are unwilling to negotiate in a fair and reasonable manner. As such, it is with the deepest regret that we must walk away from the Le Parc space at the end of the current extension.”

Le Parc Café, which debuted in August 2022 with great fanfare, belonged to the same family that had successfully operated Le Crepe Bistro and Café Bonjour in South Miami. Despite generating over $160,000.00 in revenue for the City, it is argued that the City’s involvement set the stage for the cafe’s ultimate downfall. The lease agreement, while atypically demanding on the tenant, included an array of discounts, concessions, and a challenging shared gross profit scheme. Its most significant flaw was its one-year term with a possible extension, during which the cafe’s emails and complaints to the City revealed a disheartening relationship marked by management instability, bureaucratic hurdles, and financial delays.

The failure of this venture can be attributed to the inherent incompatibility between a private for-profit business and a government institution. Bureaucrats often prioritize job preservation and public image over the success of private enterprises, leading to a mismatched partnership.

However, conversations with various members of the City Commission and local residents suggest that City management may have missed the mark. Commissioners Fernandez, Castro, and Menendez, along with Vice Mayor Anderson comments from the dais, appear to prioritize the establishment of a community gathering place over profits. Their vision revolves around creating a neighborhood hub where camaraderie and good food take precedence, fostering a sense of unity among residents.

The issue of management is a genuine concern, primarily emanating from the Mayor’s determination to avoid any perception of failure. Lago has continually expressed on the dais hesitation against long term agreements that box the City into what he describes as financially poor arrangements. That is certainly a proper concern, but in this case, we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Residents are well aware of the battles and accusations that contributed to the demise of the Liberty Café. Mayor Lago, and other members of the prior Commission, seem to take offense at Liberty Group’s tenacity in retaining their lease, leading to accusations against the vendor based on unproven allegations from the dais of misfeasance that have yet to be publicly addressed. However, whatever their faults, real or imagined, most residents enjoyed the community feel of Liberty Cafe, and its absence was certainly felt by many. Although the attempts to curtail possible waste is laudable, this situation left taxpayers in the most unfavorable position, with the government as a default operator ill-equipped to manage a property designed for events and a small restaurant.

Cities are not equipped to run restaurants or host events like conferences, weddings, and birthdays. Consequently, the default solution was to structure this restaurant under a concession agreement, akin to pizza vendors at the Venetian Pool. Unfortunately, this approach proved disastrous.

Editorial: Perhaps it is time for the City to acknowledge its limitations and relinquish management to a capable for-profit entity. This could lead to better returns for taxpayers without the stifling micromanagement that the City seems to have imposed. The hope is that a new vendor can revitalize the location, allowing the business to flourish profitably while freeing it from excessive bureaucratic control. It may be time for the Mayor to reevaluate his approach and consider handing over the reins to a more capable entity, one that can give the taxpayers a more favorable return on their assets.


40 thoughts on “In the Wake of Le Parc Café Closure: Uncertainty Looms Over Coral Gables Country Club’s Dining Future

  1. I’ve followed the saga of Liberty Cafe/Le Parc and Burger Bob’s. All fine neighborhood establishments well appreciated by residents. The city’s meddling and gross manipulations as well as a lack of a clear strategy for community development have been simply disastrous leaving residents to fend for themselves and looking elsewhere for amenities. I went by the “new” Le Parc today, I believe now managed by the city. It was a joke. After a few minutes worth of conversation with a clueless attendant I decided to go elsewhere. And I’m not going back. Mediocre city clerks running cafes? Great idea! But thanks, not for me.

  2. Is it just me? Or does it not seem like Le Parc was destined to fail. Everything I’ve seen and read has led me to believe that the individuals managing the place were unqualified.

    Now we get to bring in a professional management group. Exactly what Pete $ wanted to do after the Liberty debacle.

    All in favor of a new no-bid deal for the Barreto Group say “aye-yie-yie”.

  3. What??! At least give them an extension for the winter! I hate it when the city gets involved. Every community needs a local cafe. This is BS

  4. SO disappointing, yet again for another cafe closure! We loved Le Parc and Liberty. What a shame the residents have to suffer because of the incompetence of the city, who by the way, behaves as if it’s in the the middle of a telenovela. This sense of community is what drew me to the Gables and I’m finding their behavior is quite embarrassing and disheartening.

  5. Simply put, Le Parc was fantastic and the City, yet again, botched what could have been a beautiful long-term relationship. It’s shameful, quite frankly. Through its actions, the City has sent a clear message, it isn’t interested in working with small businesses. Replacing Le Parc with a major steak house operator (or any similar operator) doesn’t add any value to the city of Coral Gables, and doesn’t build any sense of community. Le Parc was owned by locals, bringing quality products with care and love. Those are the types of businesses and people that we should want to bring to this community. And our government (quite literally, individuals representing our interests) should be a catalyst in achieving our interests, not a roadblock.

    I’m not going to use this opportunity to take shots at Liberty Cafe as compared to Le Parc (although I do have a strong opinions on that), but for those who had gripes about Le Parc’s prices and hours of operations, two quick comments. First, could you please let me know where you’re finding substantially lower prices in Miami for similar products? I’m not aware of any restaurant selling homemade croissants for $1, but I guess I’m missing a slew of restaurants that have avoided inflation. Keep me posted because I’m looking for ways to circumvent inflation as well. And second, on a less sarcastic note, it’s not possible for a small business handicapped by the City’s commercial terms to legitimately (a) cut prices, and (b) have longer hours of operation. Both of those items increase your cost and/or decrease profits (especially if the restaurant doesn’t dramatically increase sales after 6pm). What you’re asking is for Le Parc to make less money. Instead, you should direct your frustration to the City for better commercial terms on the lease so that Le Parc could have considered longer hours and changes in price without sacrificing further profits in an already unrealistic agreement. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. Thanks City of CG.

  6. R.I.P. Liberty Caffe and Cafe Le Parc. I was a fan of both. Unfortunately our City has failed —twice. What small business wants to deal with our City after this awful track record? It would be the kiss of death.

    (And NO WAY will i ever support a ridiculous steak restaurant in this neighborhood!)

  7. RIP Liberty Caffe and Cafe Le Parc. I was a fan of both. Unfortunately our City has failed —twice. What small business wants to deal with our City after this awful track record? It would be the kiss of death.

    (And NO WAY will i ever support a ridiculous steak restaurant in this neighborhood!)

  8. Madruga Bakery would be an excellent replacement. Homegrown, superb goods and service.
    But, I doubt they’d want to deal with Mayor and CM.

  9. I am terribly saddened by the possible closure of this gem, the family owned business has been a big success this past year and loved by many. The place is quaint, the service is great, and the owners are beyond wonderful people. I have followed them since their other location in South Miami due to their outstanding excellence in serving fresh food. The Coral Gables city needs to step off and let small businesses flourish!

  10. This is such an incredibly charming and unique spot which has been enhanced by a locally run cafe. It would be a pity to have a chain come in and strip away the uniqueness of such a gem.

  11. For starters, Mr. Baños has found a way to twist this story into this own narrative. Again. Are we surprised yet?

    Here’s what he forgot to mention. Both Fernandez and Menendez had an odd fixation to Le Parc. Don’t believe me? Ask them. Or just check their Instagram accounts. I’ll bet the first person to find a post of Fernandez or Menendez at Le Parc a free coffee at Le Parc. Oh wait… It’s closed.

    ANYWAY! The point is that it’s no surprise Mr. Baños would take any opportunity to ensure this article portrays the situation in a way that makes the City look bad. Shame on you Mr. Baños. Do some more research before you come to such harsh conclusions. Better yet, go back and watch last week’s Commission meeting. There was a clear attempt to extend the terms of lease through October 31st, 2023. The resolution, which was sponsored by Menendez (I’ll give credit where credit is due), was approved unanimously by the Commission. The unfortunate part was that the owners of Le Parc sent the above referenced email on the very same day. Before they were able to appreciate the benefits of the lease extension. An extension which would have enabled them to continue negotiations with the City. Seems to me like the owners of Le Parc are to blame here, not the Commission or the City.

  12. City of coral gables has sold its soul to $$$$.

    City commissioners and government is killing this area, it’s all about the money. Just look around.

    No matter what you say or do they will always go for $$ over everything. Very upsetting and so sad. Pretty soon u won’t be able to get around anywhere cause they just keep building and building. No more community mom and pops. There’s no affordable place for the people that work in restaurants, laundry, stores to live. It’s all about the $$$$$

  13. Javier, I agree with your comments, BUT there is a dark reality that more aptly describes the issue surrounding the situation with Burger Bob’s and the Cafe in the Country Club. It is not a secret that last year City Hall was very upset and frustrated with their inability to implement the projects for an upscale Steak House in the Country Club and another restaurant in place of Burger Bob’s, which they already had negotiated with a hospitality operator, but the resident’s tsunami, that resulted when their plans became known, thwarted the projects.

    I don’t believe that City Hall has given up on their restaurant plans for the Country Club, they just hit pause. I believe that City Hall knowingly contracted with Le Parc for just one year, just as a stop gap, to let time pass for the residents to calm down and focus on other issues and get their attention away from the Cafe and the Country Club matter. The owners of Le Parc walked away because in order for City Hall to extend their contract, City Hall was making demands that are impossible for a small business like Le Parc Cafe to comply with. Only a large restaurant operation can accept those conditions. Why didn’t City Hall make such demands from Le Parc when they signed the original contract one year ago? Don’t be surprised if we soon find out that a Steak House or similar restaurant is opening in the Country Club.

    Regarding Burger Bob’s, it has been more than a year since it closed and still no one knows or has any idea as to when it may open. According to Commissioner’s Castro recent message in Gables Insider, the Mayor wants to pull funds away from Burger Bob’s renovation project. If that is accurate, does the City really have plans of ever opening Burger Bob’s? What are they?

    Sadly, City Hall and politicians have learned how to do whatever they want and get away with it, even when the majority of residents are opposed.

  14. Sorry but that place was terrible. Terrible service. Terribly overpriced and the whole dirt/mulch combo wasn’t doing it for me

  15. Biscayne Cafeteria was a bigger loss than Burger Bob’s. So sad that people didn’t realize this. This loss coincided with the silly changes all over the Gables & Miami. Healthier food was served at Biscayne. Older folks would even take the bus from Miami Beach to hang out with other seniors there.

    Fast food has replaced the cafeterias. How sad. No wonder we’re all fatter & sadder. RIP Morrison’s, Piccadilly & Biscayne! Grease & Sugar is what sells.

    Graziano’s could also make the place profitable for the City, but there’d be too much traffic & outsiders.

  16. Simply look at the long string of failures at this fabulous venue, then look at the demise of Burger Bobs and the state of that venue. One thing in common, City beauracrats that do not understand small business.

  17. Why not offer the space to Chocolate Fashion or Bachour? They already have experience & places close by so they could easily manage this location.

  18. Sadly the city is killing this area. First Burger Bob’s and now the Cafe again. No one wants to deal with Miracle Mile parking. We need alternatives for this area, without Lago & the city managers cohorts.

  19. Acrimony has become the rule in the “City Beautiful”.
    I sure miss the days of old when compromise and civility were a trademark of our city government.

  20. Le Parc was such a bright spot in the community, and it’s mind boggling that the city didn’t see its value beyond the bottom line (which, apparently, was in the black).

    Whenever I hear complaints about the prices on their menu, I assume that these folks haven’t stepped into any other quality cafe in the city, whose prices are no different (hello, $16 yogurt/berries bowl at Bachour!!!). I’ll happily pay a bit more for fresh, in-house food prepared by locals with quality ingredients.

    If anyone hears of when/where the Le Parc owners’ next cafe will open, please share here! I’ll be first in line.

  21. A charming environment, delicious food at fair prices, welcoming staff and owners, and the opportunity to linger unrushed – the perfect recipe for having the city ruin a good thing.

  22. Pretty disappointed to see this little neighborhood gem be run out of town. Don’t have the full story I’m sure, but it does sound like a small business was priced out of the lease. Would much rather have a small business than a generic chain with no charm. I remember waiting for months and months for Le Parc to open, couldn’t wait to have a close by spot for coffee and breakfast. Prefer the intimate, quiet feel with ample parking to the hustle bustle of Miracle Mile. What will go in now and will it take years because that’s how long permits take these days…a whole entirely different issue, but a huge one that should have its own article and comment section as well. Guess the place will stay empty for a while, such a waste. Will be difficult for anyone to turn a profit and pay lease prices that are too high to absorb the cost of running a business.

  23. I wholeheartedly agree with the following editorial:
    When situations like these occur, look no further than the top official of our city.

    Editorial: Perhaps it is time for the City to acknowledge its limitations and relinquish management to a capable for-profit entity. This could lead to better returns for taxpayers without the stifling micromanagement that the City seems to have imposed. The hope is that a new vendor can revitalize the location, allowing the business to flourish profitably while freeing it from excessive bureaucratic control. It may be time for the Mayor to reevaluate his approach and consider handing over the reins to a more capable entity, one that can give the taxpayers a more favorable return on their assets.

  24. I as well as many residents of our City have grown to love and appreciate Le Parc Cafe over the past year. The management and staff are attentive, professional, and friendly and worked tirelessly to build a loyal clientele. The atmosphere is vibrant, the food is fresh and beautifully presented. It has been an almost daily stop for me; sometimes to pick up the best Cappuccino and authentic french pastries in the City — other times for a delicious breakfast with family and friends — or to schedule a meal with business associates. While at Le Parc, I regularly see others enjoying meals together, groups of parents, community leaders, or business people planning fund raisers or new ventures. It also draws in golfers, joggers, walkers, and is a safe after school meeting place for local students.

  25. Thought the place was great. Delicious food. Very nice people. So disappointed to see this.

  26. I remember the city attorney at the time evicted Canadian Liberty group for non payment of rent and lack of maintenance to the bldg during Covid then same city attorney reached and paid a $300k settlement with Liberty after they counter sued C G. Terrible negotiations on C G part Liberty should have been kept in place at all cost CG residents, weddings, events filled that place up especially on 1/2 price Gelato Tuesdays. Le Parc I never eat their it was a sad place high prices, short hours, empty most of time & slap in the face to citizens that new Liberty Cafe
    group. NO to city manager friends running a new place
    there, this guy is laying really low now after all the chaos
    he had going with the previous administration & waste of
    taxpayer dollars.

  27. LeParc was an amazing place, great pricing, great food. Went several times a week and every single person I took ended up loving the spot and going often.

  28. Le Parc was a great family place! I will go every Sunday with my family(party of 8) and we always had excellent food, great service and an amazing time. Prices were reasonable and worth it. It is very sad, to see them go. This is a note from my kids: “No restaurant makes french toast so delicious like Le Parc does”

  29. And one more, on Oct. 2nd, the City attorney of Coral Gables sent a notice of non-renewal of lease to Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, maybe the oldest successful operating restaurant in town, after 25 years paying up to 3 million in Rent payments! Even though Fritz & Franz Bierhaus has two five year options to renew! No explanation has been given why they would not let Fritz & Franz Bierhaus use the option and no one has talked to the owner to negotiate the new terms! Do they have a new tenant already?

  30. Le parc Wasn’t a good family place.
    Not family friendly (small tables, quacks chairs) quite expensive, the hours they opened were ridiculous (close at 5pm so I could not really take the kids for ice cream or early dinner).
    Liberty cafe’service wasn’t the best (we all agree) but was mucho more professionally managed and more family friendly. We just need a cafe restaurant were u can have breakfast lunch dinner is not crazy expend and easy going. Cream concept, cortadito concept…

  31. I agree with Mr Baños that in general government driven business tends to fail. Just visit Cuba to witness what happens when government gets involved in running for profit business.

  32. My family is extremely sad and upset. Friends, who live in Pinecrest and would frequent Le Parc’s prior restaurants, are not happy either – one was about to call to schedule an event there. I was so proud to bring friends to the cafe showing them another reason why we love living in Coral Gales – now it is gone. The cafe’ s owners and staff always made you feel at home and the food, homemade baked goods, and service were incredible. The city has removed a sacred spot and one that can not be replaced. Good luck finding anything that will come close to this wonderful establishment.

  33. I don’t see any interviews or comments from the City. Can we get a balanced story of what really happened, instead of speculation?

  34. It is a shame. Le Parc was the only quiet and comfortable corner in CG.
    I agree with your observations.

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