Balans, a Lincoln Road fixture since 1997, told its staff this morning that the Miami Beach location was closing but Balans and its landlord reached a last-minute agreement to keep it open. Ben Brody, whose family has owned the building since 1981, told RE:MiamiBeach, “We’ve reached an agreement that was beneficial for both parties and we’re thrilled to have Balans continue to operate on Lincoln Road into the foreseeable future.”
“In business there’s give and take and you sometimes have to listen to the needs of the tenants and do what you can to keep the businesses going and look to the future,” he said.
After the agreement was reached, Balans Restaurant Group CEO Jonathan Balan said, “I’m very optimistic… I have to take my hat off to the Brody family and thank them for everything they’ve done. We have been here for over two decades now… As one of the longest staples on Lincoln Road, it doesn’t really help the City to have us shutting down.”
“We were all very ecstatic today,” Balan said. “It all comes down to the Brodys for making it happen… Emotions were very high all weekend. To see the staff faces light up when we said we were remaining open, it was very heartwarming.” He said Balans employs about 50 people.
“We saved a lot of jobs and that’s very important too. We were cognizant of that and that was a driving force,” Brody said. “We wanted folks to be employed. They contribute to the community as well… They’ve been in business for a long time and we’ll figure out how to get through this and look to the future.”
Earlier today when the news broke, Brody said “It is a great group and, you know, when times get tough everyone needs to come together and figure it out if they want to solve any issues.”
“We aren’t the typical landlords that say we have a building, you have to pay what you have to pay. We’re very engaged. We’re merchants. Our background is in retail so we understand both perspectives from being a landlord and being a merchant."
Speaking of Balans, he said, "As a wonderful tenant – and longstanding – that showed up on Lincoln Road before the movie theater was even built, we value that relationship and we’re trying to work on some kind of a financial arrangement that allows them to continue to operate on Lincoln Road.”
Balan said there are a number of challenges facing Lincoln Road businesses from high rents to increased competition. “There’s a lot more competition” with other areas in Miami, he said. “Unfortunately, the City [of Miami Beach] kind of does anything and everything to battle against us… naturally rents do go up but the traffic isn’t going up. It doesn’t really balance for us anymore so that was really the challenge that we were facing.”
“The future is bright,” Balan said, citing the upcoming Lincoln Road restoration. “If we can get through that there’s bound to be success but there does need to be some help given from the City, too, which will be the next thing we want to address with the Commissioners and the Mayor and start opening that conversation,” Balan said. “We’re very fortunate to have a great landlord, but the City also has to help us grow the business as well.”
For example, he said, he’d like for the City to offer a monthly plan for paying sidewalk café permit fees rather than having to pay the fee upfront in one lump sum each October 1. He also cited restrictions on noise levels and an earlier cutoff time for serving alcohol at the cafés which are required to stop serving at 1:30 am. Recently he tried having a drag show in the evenings for a couple of months. “As soon as it got successful, the City was walking in the door saying ‘You’re not allowed to do this,'” Balan said. Meanwhile, he said, “We had a trumpet player scaring off the customers and yet they were given a permit to play on Lincoln Road.”
“You’ll say no to [the drag show] but you’re happy to bring someone who’s going to scare away my customers,” Balan said. “It’s a constant battle with the City to try to get things done.”
Balans (pronounced BAY-luns) started in 1987 with its first restaurant in London’s Soho neighborhood. Founded by Prady Balan, the restaurant group opened its first U.S. location on Lincoln Road followed by openings in Brickell and on Biscayne Boulevard.
The Biscayne restaurant closed last October. According to a Miami Herald article at the time, Balan said that location “wasn’t doing as well as we’d hoped.”
Meanwhile, the Balans Brickell location has been closed for renovations since June. Balan said he hopes to have it reopened by end of this year.
Jonathan is founder Prady Balan’s son. Prady Balan died of a heart attack in 2016 at age 59. The London restaurants are now under different ownership.
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