Reopening the Gables’ Icon May Take Until Next December
It has been nearly a year since Burger Bob’s closed its doors. The old-fashioned diner on the first hole of the Granada Golf Course, which had served low-cost American food (cheeseburgers, chili, BLTs) for nearly three decades, ended its run in February 2022.
The city at first looked for a new restaurateur to take on management of the city-owned property, but renovation costs were prohibitive, especially if the same $5 burgers were to stay on the menu. Instead, driven by public pressure to see a low-cost classic diner remain, the city agreed to take on the project and then lease the facility to an experienced operator.
Now, it may take as much as another year before diners hankering for the return of Burger Bob’s can again sit down and order breakfast or lunch. That was the timeline for reopening revealed at a community meeting last month by Community Recreation Department Director Fred Couceyro.
Renderings of the remodeled diner show a “modern style” version, with an expanded seating area absorbing space from the next door pro shop and surrounding patio. There will also be an upgraded kitchen, hurricane impact windows, and a single unisex bathroom that meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Previously there had been no bathroom. Estimated cost: $610,000, with a completion date of December 2023.
Couceyro called the proposed design “a nod to the old-style diner, but with a refreshed look.” Said architect Daphne Gurri, “[We] wanted to have something that was very neutral and relaxed but at the same time having a remembrance of what Coral Gables is and referencing what the old diner was.”
The handful of residents attending the presentation – which they say was not adequately announced – were not entirely pleased. Some were disappointed that the project was taking too long. Others were unhappy with the design, which they say it’s too sleek, modern, and soulless, erasing much of the character of the original Bob’s – like the red faux-leather bar stools and chairs, with their linoleum tables, now in storage. Marlin Ebbert, chair of the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board, suggested that as many of the original elements as possible be repurposed. Others objected to a long bar along the outer windows, where people can sit and charge their laptops – not in keeping with the old gathering spot and likely to attract non-diners.
The lengthy time needed, Couceyro responded, is for “permitting, procurement, and then the construction. It takes a while.” Mayor Vince Lago, who was so infuriated by delays last year that at one point he threatened to personally take over the project, promised to push the renovation forward.
“What we are facing right now is a once in a generation situation in construction, with a shortage of competent manpower and delays due to material shortages,” he told Coral Gables Magazine. “We are trying to find the most appropriate way
to move it forward,” including overriding the procurement process by using the contractor already working on the pro shop. “I’m hoping it will be done by the end of summer,” he said.
The likely operator of a revamped Burger Bob’s is Rita Tennyson, a community favorite who worked with former Burger Bob’s proprietor Bob Maguire for more than 28 years. While no contract has been signed, the City Commission last year declared her to be its preferred candidate. She has been asked to come up with a sample menu and has a tentative meeting with city officials this month, according to her attorney Diane Wells.