Bongos, Gloria Estefan's AmericanAirlines Arena restaurant, to close; Estefan Kitchen to open in downtown Miami

After 15 years as the anchor club/restaurant at the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, Gloria Estefan’s Bongos Cuban Cafe has decided not to renew its lease and will be closing on June 28. The restaurant will still maintain a concession inside the arena, and the other Bongos locations in Orlando, the Seminole Hard Rock and the South Terminal at MIA will remain open.

But the Estefans are not abandoning downtown Miami. According to Estefan Enterprises president Frank Amadeo, “We have collectively decided to transition into a development we are working on at a property in downtown Miami that the Estefans have owned for 12 years.”

The property, on Northeast 14th Street at First Avenue near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, will be geared “more toward the culinary side than the club side,” Amadeo told us. “More along the lines of what [the recently reopened] Larios is. [The Estefans] had the early vision to open businesses on Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and now in downtown Miami, so this is a natural transition for us.”

This property, Amadeo says, has been in development for several years. As far as the current Bongos’ employees go, “fortunately we have these other locations and are in the process of relocating staff to other properties. Several are in place at Larios and the Hard Rock, and a few went to Orlando,” Amadeo explained. They are also currently negotiating to open a Bongos in Las Vegas as well.

“We have really enjoyed our association with Bongos and the Estefans. They have been great tenants and we wish them the very best in their future endeavors. They will continue to be part of the Heat family by staying involved at the Arena through the Bongos carts on the concourses and the Miami HEAT Rhythm Section,” saidEric Woolworth, president of The HEAT Group Business Operations.

As for the new Estefan Kitchen restaurant, expect an opening within 18 months or so.