Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Fort Lauderdale Delays Opening to Early 2021

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, a Philadelphia-based restaurant group, has delayed the opening of its second Florida location on East Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale to early 2021.


“The pandemic crisis has set us back a bit, but construction finally began in mid-July in partnership with Broward County general contractor RCC Associates of Deerfield Beach,” said Barry Gutin, Principal and Co-Founder, Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar. “We used the extra time to make design modifications to make our restaurant a model for the ‘new normal.’”


The new restaurant, designed by Barker Nestor Architecture and thematic designers Artisan Industry of Columbia, Tennessee, will be located at 800 East Las Olas Boulevard (at the corner with SE 8th Avenue) and cover 9,200 square feet with seating for 250 (interior/exterior). It will feature dramatic interior and exterior theming, as well as a wood-burning Latin Grill & Chef’s Counter.


In response to new safety expectations and dining patterns created by the pandemic, Gutin and co-founder Larry Cohen have ensured that the restaurant will contain a plethora of pandemic-related safety design features including high ceilings at the inside bar and in the main dining room and wide open storefronts for better ventilation.


“Given the times, we felt compelled to adjust our design to protect our guests and employees,” said Gutin. “We increased our outside seating and will feature 78 linear feet of operable windows and a floor-to-ceiling storefront to better create a connection between our dining room and the fresh air of the vibrant neighborhood. The dining room is located on a corner, which will allow for cross breezes from East Las Olas Boulevard and SE 8th Avenue.” 


The restaurant’s final design also increases the intake of fresh “outside air” into the air conditioning system for the dining room and other guest areas by 72 percent over the minimum requirements. Of the remaining air that is recirculated, “air stream disinfection” and the removal of viruses, bacteria, mold, and other particles is accomplished using UV-C lights and hospital grade, high-efficiency air filters.


“Additionally, to better accommodate those who are not quite ready to dine out, we designed a dedicated kitchen station for takeout and delivery logistics and designated five rear parking spaces for contactless curbside takeout service,” added Gutin.


Like at the other Cuba Libre restaurants in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Orlando and Washington, D.C., Gutinemphasized that safety protocols detailed in Cuba Libre’s 65-page pandemic response manual will guide managers when the Fort Lauderdale location opens. 


During construction, RCC Associates is implementing significant safety measures in response to the pandemic.


“At RCC Associates, our priority in 2020 has been to enforce all the necessary safety measures to ensure we protect our staff, subcontractors, clients and community. This encompasses companywide screening protocol, enhanced sanitization standards, social distancing guidelines, on-site crew size limitations, PPE mandates, travel restrictions, a phased remote work policy, and other critical modifications to our standard operating procedures both in the office and in the field. We’re proud to say that we’ve seen our team members unite and excel under these incredibly challenging circumstances, always in the aim of supporting our clients, like Cuba Libre, through this difficult time and exceeding their expectations,” said Beverly Raphael, President and CEO, RCC Associates.


The current health emergency has not dampened Gutin’s and Cohen’s excitement about their Fort Lauderdale expansion.


“There is such a rich and vibrant Cuban culture in South Florida, which we’ll celebrate through exciting food, beverage and entertainment,” said Gutin. “When guests step into Cuba Libre they’ll feel transported from East OlasBoulevard to Havana.”


About Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar opened in Philadelphia in 2000, Atlantic City in 2004, Orlando in 2008 and Washington, D.C. in 2010 to much critical acclaim, providing guests with a passport to Cuba’s intriguing flavors and cuisine. The restaurant’s name, which translates to “a free Cuba,” signifies hope for the future of the treasured island nation. Two-time James Beard award winning Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot’s menus feature tantalizing tastes that reflect Cuba’s culinary traditions, as well as the emerging modern cuisine that he is experiencing during his continuing travels to Cuba. The business is poised for expansion into new markets. Cuba Libre Fort Lauderdale (early 2021) will be the company’s fifth location, followed by Cuba Libre San Juan (late 2021). Principals BarryGutin and Larry Cohen bring a unique combination of hospitality and expertise to each of their projects and have been partners in the hospitality business since 1995. For more information please visit

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