It’s not easy opening a hotel or restaurant on South Beach. Just ask chef Kris Wessel and the folks behind the location of Wessel’s latest South Beach venture, Florida Cookery at The James Royal Palm, whose opening has been indefinitely delayed, says a publicist, “in waiting for the hotel’s last round of inspections for certificate of occupancy from the city.” The word on the rescheduled opening is, simply, yet evasively, “soon.” And, as one door opens (eventually), another sadly closes.
In prepping for Florida Cookery to open, Wessel’s groundbreaking Biscayne Boulevard restaurant Red Light appears to be closed for good, according to Ryan Roman of Miami’s Restaurant Power Rankings. The landlord of the restaurant, which has been closed for three weeks, reportedly filed an eviction complaint on October 24. Click here for that eviction complaint.
Despite that publicly recorded complaint, a publicist tells us that Red Light was slated to reopen in its original spot at Motel Blu on November 14. Restaurant insiders say that Wessel was seen moving his things out of Red Light last night.
According to a source very close to the restaurant, the deal is that the landlord didn’t want to renew the 5-year-option on Wessel’s lease at the current rate. Instead of fighting it, we’re told, Wessel has decided to walk away. Though we hear he’s sad to let it go, based on his options, he has decided to focus his energy on Florida Cookery. And just how sad is Wessel?
“Anyone who knows me knows I loved Red Light,” he says, waxing nostalgic a little. “Funny, as I was packing up last night I found the first menu: Red Light urban regional dining. It was an attempt at regional eats on the urban edge of gentrification. It opened in 2008, recession ripe, [in the] flavorless-mid-casual-dining-option era. I was a chef and father of two, who, despite one investor dying and three turning away, believed in the space and area enough to go the next 4 years at a sub-break even pace to deliver affordable flavor to the Upper East Side. I started with sous vide lobster and nitrogen cocktails and ended with Haitian ox tail and fish Creole. Red Light honored the people and culture of its region and I apologize for the wait on food but often I was the only one cooking.”