Clive’s Cafe I closes Miami Herald

Clives Cafe 1 closes Miami HeraldClive’s Cafe 1 closes after 38 years in Wynwood

Posted  Tuesday, 04.02.13

Clive’s Cafe, a Jamaican restaurant open in Wynwood for 38 years, closed its doors last weekend.

On Saturday, the restaurant’s last day, the mood was more solemn than celebratory — word had gotten out that Clive’s was planning to close, but few knew exactly when. The customers who trickled in for the final meal ordered many of the restaurant’s famous dishes: oxtail; curry goat; jerk chicken and other favorites.

One of those last diners was Katrina Hall, who said it was more than just the tasty food that kept her coming back.

“The food is awesome and [restaurant owner Pearline Murray] is amazing. She’s very nice, and the customer service has always been wonderful.”

Murray received word from her landlord in December that she had three months to leave the restaurant, 2818 N. Miami Ave., and the building was put onto the market.

A representative for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, which manages the building, said that a prominent Miami Beach group has rented and will be renovating the space with the intention of opening a restaurant within six months.

Murray said some customers who had dined at the restaurant for decades urged her to fight to stay, but she says her time has come.

“A lot of them care. A lot want me to protest. They would march. They would tent [in front of the store]. Some have gone to the city … but I’ve told them it’s the Lord’s will, so just leave it as it is. This is the landlord’s investment, and if they need the place, I have no problem with that. I am willing to move on.”

Murray says she never intended to get into the restaurant business; she initially hoped to work in the medical field. But when she moved from Jamaica to Miami, she opened Clive’s Cafe — with no professional culinary experience, having only cooked privately for family and friends. Her Jamaican food quickly caught on and became a staple of the neighborhood for decades.

She named the place for her son. Her 23-year-old grandson, also named Clive, worked there as well. He fondly remembers how much it changed over the years.

“When I was smaller, before she remodeled she had the dishwasher out [in front], so you had to the dishes in front of the customers,” he said.

The Wynwood location was not a deliberate decision; Clive’s ended up there because that’s where a spot was available. Murray has watched the neighborhood evolve in a significant way since she moved in.

“When I first came, it was strictly an industrial area. And now it has changed so much that I think we have outgrown this.”

Wynwood has turned into an arts and entertainment district catering to a more upscale audience. Developers and landlords have curated tenants to gentrify the mix in the neighborhood, leaving many longtime local businesses to move elsewhere or close.

Mario Bailey, a lobbyist and patron of Clive’s Cafe, says that gentrification of the neighborhood has had mixed results.

“It’s changed somewhat for the better, somewhat not so good. [The restaurant closing] is an example of the not so good. Gentrification that has come [to Wynwood] is bittersweet; some things improve and some not so.”

Murray says her passionate customers might be what she will miss most about the restaurant.

“The local acquaintances I have made, that I surely will miss because there’s a lot that I’m sure I’m not going to see.”

Clive’s Cafe will merge operations with Clive’s II, a sister restaurant in Little Haiti. Many of Murray’s current customers have said they will support Murray at Clive’s II.

As for Murray, 71, she says she plans to soon but remain active in Clive’s II even after that.

“If I even retire, I will still stay on to help them, whoever takes over.”