Raising the Bar (Expanded Version) via Edible South Florida

We had the opportunity to sit down with Mo Lacayo for Edible South Florida.  We got to see what inspires him and some of the extraordinary projects he has underway.

Raising the Bar (written for Edible South Florida)

As we sit down with Mauricio “Mo” Lacayo, we settle into a beautiful breakfast in the heart of Santiago De Cuba at the Hotel Casa Granda. We gathered with a group of industry professionals to follow the history of the daiquiri through stories and of course by drinking plenty of daiquiris. We decide there is no better place to chat about bars then this very place, the start of the magical story of rum in Cuba over sandwiches and “café con leche”.

While Mo was raised in Miami Lakes, he was born in Nicaragua (his mother is Cuban and father is Nicaraguan). As we talk to Mo, we realize he’s as passionate about design as he is about his hometown. Mo not only went to high school in South Florida (Hialeah Miami Lakes), he also completed his degree in Architecture from FIU (Florida International University). Mo had a good grasp on Auto Cad early on and realized his passion was designing clubs and bars. With a chance meeting, Mo got pegged to design the famed Living Room in Miami Beach, which in its heyday, was the most popular nightclub in Miami Beach. After completing this project, Mo got the contracts for Liquid, Crobar (Miami Beach, NYC and Chicago), Shadow Lounge and most recently, Tootsies and E11even. While Mo doesn’t shy away from big projects, his understanding of nightclub and bar design has made him a go-to when an investor or operator wants something special. But Mo’s passion doesn’t lie behind big projects; it lies behind preservation and the adventure of finding the extraordinary in locations to create cocktail bars.

One such project, Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Co., is one of Miami Beach’s gems. Working together with Dan Binkiewicz and John Lermayer, Mo helped design what was voted at Tales of the Cocktail 2016 Spirited Award’s: Best New American Bar along with Spirited Miami’s Bar of the Year. Mo’s vision is beyond plain design and goes into the intricacies of bartender and guest interaction, how the bottles are displayed, even working with bartenders to make sure that efficiencies are created on both sides of the bar.

Mo has learned to balance his love for bars and design by getting involved as partners in some of these bars. What he considers his baby, The Bend, is located where he was raised, in Miami Lakes. What was once considered a neighborhood bar, fell victim to illegal drugs and gambling and was eventually shut down by local police.

“This was our local watering hole, we had to do something.”

Alongside his business partner, Landy Lamas, both put their money where their mouth is, and bought the dual use property (one part bar, one part liquor store). Preserving what they thought as important to the Miami Lakes community, Mo and Landy, kept the property intact and added craft cocktails and a retro vibe. Locals flock to it because of the fresh cocktails and local feel. Sam Weiner, head bartender, leads the direction of the cocktail menu that includes fresh ingredients, infusions and in-house edible garnishes. Since this was a dual property, Mo and Landy finally conceptualized a vintage drinking den called the Flip Side. Here you can order your local beers in growlers and take home, or enjoy a cocktail while sitting on vintage furniture from Florida. The walls are adorned with old Florida antiques including maps from the 1950’s. The Flip Side should be opening their doors in the next three months and just add to Mo’s legacy of preservation.

While Mo continues to work on new projects, many that we cannot disclose at the moment, his search for preservation hasn’t stopped. The balance between design and preservation is what has made Mo so successful. And we thank you for saving some of our bars and designing the next legendary ones.

“Wait till you see what I am working on next!”

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