Celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein plans to re-open her Sra. Martinez restaurant, this time in Coral Gables. It was a Miami Design District staple pre-pandemic.
The Coral Gables project is backed by the EB-5 visa program that allows foreign investors a path to U.S. green cards in exchange for lending to a business venture that generates a certain number of jobs.
The Coral Gables Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to allow an entity linked to the restaurant to lease a 4,111-square-foot, city-owned space at 2325 Galiano Street. The approval was final, but the city is holding off on signing the lease until the tenant submits an operating agreement for review by Coral Gables Manager Peter Iglesias.
The property used to be the site of the Open Stage bar and live music venue that is closed.
Bernstein, who will run the restaurant with her husband, David Martinez, will lease the property for a 15-year term, with two five-year extension options, according to the commission meeting agenda documents.
The duo rented the real estate as is, meaning they are responsible for at least $1.3 million in space improvements that have to be completed during the first two years of the lease. During that time, the tenant won’t have to pay rent, documents show.
Retrofits will include installing sliding glass doors that will run the length of the room, allowing an outdoor feeling while indoors.
The base rent will be $127,441 in the third year; $139,774 in the fourth year; and will increase 3 percent annually from there, city records show. Bernstein’s restaurant also will pay additional rent of up to $9 per square foot starting in the 19th month of the lease to cover expenses such as property taxes, insurance and maintenance.
The project will have four EB-5 investors and promises to create 71 jobs total, or 17.8 jobs per investor, according to the EB5 Affiliate Network, an industry consultancy that also is a direct EB-5 project sponsor and runs regional centers. The amount each Sra. Martinez EB-5 investor is lending is $500,000, with an expected 3 percent preferred return.
Bernstein, who is one of four South Florida chefs and the only female chef to have won the James Beard Award, created the menu for the Sweet Liberty bar in Miami Beach. Martinez is a partner in that venue. She also opened Café La Trova, which offers a modern twist to traditional Cuban cuisine, on Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Her other ventures include the now closed Azul restaurant that used to have a space at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Brickell.
Bernstein, a Miami native, hosts the “Check, Please! South Florida” TV show on PBS and the “SoFlo Taste” on Channel 10. She is also a guest judge on several competitive cooking shows.