Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar is poised for expansion into new markets in the new year, including a first-time foray outside the continental U.S. – to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. As the Philadelphia-based restaurant brand gets ready to celebrate its 20th year in business, the restaurant group is playing a role in helping to rebuild post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico.
Cuba Libre, an affiliate of GuestCounts Hospitality, LLC, is set to break ground in San Juan this month with the hope of stimulating economic development to an area ravaged by the deadly hurricane. Two years after the catastrophic Category 4 storm ripped through the island, causing more than $100 billion in damage, the Miami Herald reports the U.S. territory is slowly starting to rebound as the island shifts from recovery to long-term infrastructural refurbishment.
The 10,000-square-foot restaurant located in the Plaza Las Américas Shopping Center in San Juan PR is expected to deliver millions of dollars in economic impact and create more than 200 new restaurant and construction jobs. It will represent an investment of $8.6 million.
“Lease negotiations were nearly complete when Hurricane Maria hit on September 20, 2017,” said Barry Gutin, Principal & Co-Founder, GuestCounts Hospitality. “After the hurricane, we hired a number of residents displaced by conditions on the island. Through our efforts to raise funds for those in need, we learned about the resilience, spirit, and determination of Puerto Rico residents, as they supported each other during the aftermath of the storm. We decided to invest in post-Maria Puerto Rico to help in the commonwealth’s economic recovery and to provide opportunity for our employees from Puerto Rico who hope to move back to the island, as well as restaurant workers still there. We believe in the future of the Island of Enchantment, and we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” he added.
Cuba Libre’s newest location will be a free-standing building built from the ground up at the main entrance to Plaza Las Américas, a 1.9 million square-foot mall in the heart of San Juan. With construction beginning in the first quarter of 2020, the sixth Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar location is expected to open for patrons in January 2021. Cuba Libre San Juan will feature soaring ceilings, dramatic interior and exterior designs, a signature wood-burning Latin Grill and Chef’s Counter, and the capacity to seat 290 guests.
Plaza Las Américas is the largest shopping center in the Caribbean, located in the densely populated urban neighborhood of Hato Rey in the capital city of San Juan. It was the first enclosed mall built in Puerto Rico and is near the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Hiram Bithorn Stadium, and the center of Puerto Rico’s economy, Milla de Oro (Golden Mile) – San Juan’s international finance district. The mall generates 8,000 local jobs and has an annual economic impact of approximately $268 million. “The addition of Cuba Libre to Plaza Las Américas tenant’s roster, expands our food and entertainment offerings as well as supports the revitalization of the local economy with a significant investment and new jobs,” said Jaime Luis Fonalledas, Executive Vice President of Plaza Las Américas.
Cuba Libre San Juan will be the sixth location for the brand, which first opened in Philadelphia in 2000 to critical acclaim, followed by Atlantic City (2004), Orlando (2008), Washington D.C. (2010) and Fort Lauderdale (late summer 2020). The company is currently exploring opportunities in Tampa, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Las Vegas and Atlanta.