Meet Cesar Morales @WoodTavern

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Cesar Morales, owner of Wood Tavern
Photo by Stephanie Turk

Situated in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District, Wood Tavern offers that down home feel where you can let loose and sip some choice draft beers while nourishing parched taste buds with in-house tantalizing tacos. Whether you’re at Wood Tavern for Taco Tuesdays with Champion Sound DJs Sire Esq. and Mr. Brown, or Backyard Boogie on Sundays, with DJs Keen One and Patrick Walsh, it goes without saying that Wood Tavern is the place to be. Owner, Cesar Morales, staked his flag in Wynwood soil in 2011 and Wood Tavern has grown into a premiere bar on this side of Biscayne Bay.

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Outside Wood Tavern
Photo by Stephanie Turk

Morales’s bar has helped to transform the artsy neighborhood, inciting foot traffic on week nights, when patrons had very few food and beverage options. Cesar explains, “before I opened, I’d drive by 10, 11 o’clock at night, nobody was out, just the people leaving Joey’s and Wynwood Kitchen back then.” It’s clear that food and beverage have helped boost pedestrian traffic. With the recent openings of other bars such as Gramps and Shots Miami, the neighborhood has become increasingly welcoming for evening adventures, but as Cesar notes, there still remains a need for even more businesses to move into Wynwood. “The neighborhood still needs a lot. It needs more food and beverage. It needs more retail. The problem is that there’s not enough available space.”

Morales comes from a graphic design background and initially, opening a bar was at the bottom of his list.  He was perusing Wynwood real estate looking for a multi use venue, where he could house his graphic design studio, an art gallery, and if space permitted, a small bar. Due to the lack of available properties in the Wynwood Arts District, Cesar snagged his 26th Street location almost immediately through Wynwood real estate broker, David Lombardi of Lombardi Properties. The layout was perfect for a bar, and soon after, Wood Tavern was born.

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Space Invader Street Art at Wood Tavern
Photo by Stephanie Turk

It was the graffiti and street art that attracted Cesar to the area, who has maintained an office in the Arts District since 2006. “I just like the neighborhood. The grit, the urban feel, the New York vibe a little bit, it’s not pretty, it’s got that grunge factor, it’s got the street art, there’s really no other place like it in Miami…I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve seen a lot of open air galleries if you will. By far, this is the best and it has the most of it.”

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Inside Wood Tavern
Photo by Stephanie Turk

The bar, known for a casual low key vibe, welcomes a diverse mix of individuals, from the creatives and hipsters, to yuppies and mainstream party goers. “The main thing here that works,” Cesar explains, “is just that it’s eclectic…you get a lot of different personalities, different people from all walks of life and they mesh together in a cool setting and it just works.” Morales cites remaining consistent and “being true to who we are” as the reason for the bar’s continued success. He also attributes Art Basel 2011 as giving them a huge kickstart.

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Graffiti Art on Door of Wood Tavern
Photo by Stephanie Turk

Cesar emphasizes the types of businesses that could help Wynwood grow into Miami’s version of SoHo. “We need more small businesses, the cool t shirt shop, the gift shop of sorts, another little restaurant, burger place or pizza place.” Looking forward, Cesar plans to expand and open a nightclub in Wynwood, adding to the growth of the neighborhood. He is optimistic that Wynwood will maintain its independent spirit. “I hope that we don’t see national chains come in. I hope that it doesn’t get to the point where the rents are so high that it pushes out the independent and that’s kind of already there. It’s a cycle where the independent shop can’t afford the high rent, and who can, only the national chain can, and they come and then it just looks like any other road in America. I’m hoping that won’t be the case. I think for the most part we’ll be fine.”

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Cesar Morales on Wood Tavern’s bleachers, Atomik graffiti in background
Photo by Stephanie Turk