The Wynwood nightlife pioneer who owned the popular Wood Tavern is being sued over $1.5 million in allegedly unpaid rent for four food and beverage establishments.
The landlord, a joint venture led by New York-based Centurion Realty, recently filed three eviction lawsuits in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against Cesar Morales and two of his companies.
Centurion, headed by Ralph Tawil, and its partners paid $12 million for the sites in 2015.
Morales said he’s reached a tentative agreement to resolve his landlord’s claims, and said the $1.5 million was back rent owed as a result of the pandemic. “They sued as a back-up plan,” he said.
Tripp Vitto, an attorney representing the joint venture, declined to comment.
Wood Tavern was one of the first bars to open in the trendy Miami neighborhood almost a decade ago.
In March, Morales closed the bar at 2531 Northwest Second Avenue and an adjoining pizzeria and burger restaurant at 2507 Northwest Second Avenue. Wood Tavern opened in 2012 and attracted long lines of patrons waiting to get inside on a regular basis.
Morales said he will be vacating the other venues, Miami Mojito Co. at 2509 Northwest Second Avenue and The Tiki Garden 2519 Northwest Second Avenue, as part of the tentative agreement.
According to the lawsuits, Morales paid nearly $98,000 a month in rent for the four commercial spaces. As of Oct. 1, Wood Tavern allegedly owes roughly $243,000 in rent, the pizzeria and burger joint allegedly owes about $478,500 in rent and Miami Mojito Co. and The Tiki Garden allegedly owe close to $760,000 in rent, the complaints state.
Morales decided to close Wood Tavern and his other spots due to lost business and revenue during the months that government officials imposed Covid-19 business restrictions that limited occupancy, as well as other measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, according to published reports.
Over the summer, Morales opened a second iteration of Wood Tavern inside his latest venture, Pizza & Beer at 144 Northwest 23rd Street. Morales also owns and operates Tayrona Restaurant + Patio and Las Rosas bar in Allapattah.