Oolite closes kitchen amid eviction proceedings from Miami Beach

Arepas from Oolite.

Oolite Restaurant & Bar, Miami.com’s pick as 2014 Restaurant of the Year, closed its kitchen operation Friday amid eviction proceedings from the City of Miami Beach. Oolite’s bar remains open. 

The city’s Redevelopment Agency, which holds the lease to Oolite at 1661 Pennsylvania Ave., claims the restaurant owes more than $450,000 in back rent, at a rate of about $62,000 a month, according to an April 28 letter from city attorney Raul Aguila to Mayor Philip Levine and city commissioners.

The city began formal eviction proceedings in March, according to court records, and the case was transferred this month to Miami-Dade Circuit Court; a hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 14. 

The two sides have been arguing over rent since Oolite opened in June 2014. The city claims Oolite made partial payments — $20,000 here, $25,000 there — for a few months but skipped many months altogether and bounced a $25,594 check in March. Oolite chef-owner Kris Wessel and his attorneys have told city commissioners that they are working to raise capital and have asked for a rent reduction. “[Oolite] advised staff .. that the filing of bankruptcy was a possibility,” Aguila wrote in his April summary.  

Wessel, a South Florida Food 50 honoree who previously ran the critically acclaimed Miami restaurant Red Light, said Friday night from New Orleans that he is hopeful a deal can still be worked out to save Oolite. Until then, “Bar [is] open,” he said. 

More than 20 high-profile restaurants have closed throughout Miami in recent weeks