City shuts down Restaurant Miami

New restaurant the Favor Café has taken the place of the controversial ‘80s-themed establishment

Since the day it was proposed as a late-night restaurant called Afterbar in the summer of 2006, Robert Serr’s business at 913 W. Lake St. was controversial.

Community worries about parking, noise and drunken behavior sprang up immediately and when Serr opened his ’80s-themed venture under the name Restaurant Miami in February 2007, the city listened to neighborhood recommendations and temporarily restricted his hours.

Some of the neighborhood’s concerns were realized after the restaurant opened and tension between Serr and the community never faded, even after he pleaded with them to support later hours when business took a turn for the worse because of Lake Street reconstruction. He got the hours last August, but license violations recently killed Restaurant Miami, ending two years of drama. 

Serr transferred ownership of the restaurant in July after the city’s licensing division hosted a conference with the business to resolve compliance issues. Those included untimely renewal of its license and failure to comply with the conditions of serving food with alcohol and not having a bar area, said Linda Roberts, lead license inspector for Minneapolis.

Restaurant Miami was also on the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s “no ship” list, blocking it from receiving alcohol from distributors. Businesses can end up on the list for a variety of reasons, such as failure to pay distributors, Roberts said.

Ownership of the business was transferred after Serr signed an agreement, later approved by the City Council, that required him to close and restricted him from applying for another Minneapolis liquor license for three years.

Serr did not return phone calls for comment.

City Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) prompted the city’s investigation into Restaurant Miami after receiving tips from employees there, he said. Remington had pushed for giving Serr a chance early on, when it seemed as though the business owner’s personality was a main factor driving neighborhood opposition.  

“I’m disappointed in the fact that I tried to help him out and coach the community in learning that you cannot just deny someone the right to operate a business because you don’t like who they are,” Remington said. “But then (Serr) didn’t live up to his end of the bargain.

“So I made a promise to the community that he gets this license, but if he messes up I will be in there with two feet and I will move him out swiftly, and I did.”

A new restaurant called The Favor Café has taken over the pink and teal space. Newlywed owners Angela Tucker-Dawson and Keith Dawson, who run The Favor Catering Company, based in Brooklyn Center, are planning to remodel the space in classic black and white.

The couple’s specialty is Southern soul food such as Creole, fried chicken and Cajun shrimp, and they’re going for a family-oriented vibe much different than that of Restaurant Miami.

“One of the things we’ve been careful about is not to be the same or similar to the restaurant or bar that was there,” Dawson said this month at a public liquor license hearing.

The business requested a new license so they could offer live jazz music and other light acts during brunches and dinners. The Favor Café is a restaurant focused on food, not alcohol sales, Tucker-Dawson said.

“We’re not a bar, we’re a restaurant that serves spirits,” she said.  

The Favor Catering Company is a high-end service with corporate clients including Cargill, General Mills and Medtronic.

Community members at the recent public hearing were generally in favor of the new restaurant, including next-door neighbors Jill Bode and Mark Hillyer, who complained about parking problems, noise and drunken behavior while Restaurant Miami was open.

“It’s a positive thing for the neighborhood, and I’m happy that people are moving in that seem more community oriented and more willing to work with neighbors and the community,” Bode said.

The Favor Café’s hours are 5 p.m.–midnight on Monday, 5 p.m.–1 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Sunday.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.