Philadelphia-based Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar will open its first restaurant outside the U.S. mainland at the Plaza Las Américas mall in January 2021, the company announced.
The planned 10,000 square foot restaurant will represent an investment of $8.6 million and is expected to create more than 200 new restaurant and construction jobs.
Cuba Libre, an affiliate of GuestCounts Hospitality, LLC, will open a free-standing building built from the ground up at the main entrance to Plaza Las Américas. 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.
Plans for the restaurant had been in the works before Hurricane María hit two years ago.
“Lease negotiations were nearly complete when Hurricane María hit on Sept. 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,” he said.
“We decided to invest in post-María 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.
The culinary program at Cuba Libre San Juan will be led by two-time James Beard award-winning Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot. The restaurant provides guests with a culinary passport to Cuba’s flavors and culture.
The menu reflects Cuba’s culinary traditions, as well as the emerging modern cuisine that Pernot has experienced during his continuing travels to Cuba. The restaurant’s name, which translates to “free Cuba, channels hope for the future of the island nation,” executives said.
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.