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Opening a restaurant is a lot harder than it looks

It’s been six months since our A+Eats contest, which searched for a new local restaurant in Miami to set up shop in the Arts & Entertainment District. We’ve been checking in on some of the participants to see what they’ve made happen since then. 

It’s felt more like a nonstop expressway for the team behind The Avenue.

The team, a trio made up of celebrity chef Andy Bates, his wife Frenchy Mingo, and their friend Vivian Belzaguy, hit a high note when they won a year of rent-free space at the Filling Station Lofts, a trendy residential building in the Arts + Entertainment District. Our judges loved their concept for The Avenue Food & Brew, a British pub and restaurant.

But now, they’re down in the trenches. There are many, many things that go into making a restaurant that have nothing to do with the food — things like zoning, permitting, and budgeting. They’ve had to figure out how to redesign the empty space. Then they had to find investors to fund everything other than the one year of rent they won during the contest. 

“In the first couple of months we were trying to understand what our space could be like,” Belzaguy said.  They know at least a few things about the aesthetic of the future restaurant.

“We want it to have a brightened feel, as opposed to the usual British or Irish pub, which normally has very dark wood and dim lighting. … we want a white, clean, open feel. Especially with the high ceilings at the Filling Station, it can be a much brighter, modern look,”  she said.

As far as the menu goes, they’re sticking with their original idea: British staples like fish and chips, pie and mash, and scotch eggs. 

They also want to introduce some healthy alternatives, like grilled fish in place of the standard fried fish in certain dishes. For vegetarians, they’ve tweaked the scotch eggs. The dish, which is normally a soft-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded, and fried, will now have the option to substitute sausage for seasoned rice, a recent addition to the menu.

“There’s still some back and forth,” she said. They want to leave plenty of wiggle room to get it just right.  

This past January, the team hosted a pop-up at their soon to be permanent space that completely sold out and they’ll have a bunch more this summer before they open permanently in the fall. To find out how to attend one, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or sign up for their newsletter at theavenuemiami.com.