A Miami College Bar is in the Hot Seat

Bar Rescue - Sandbar Sports Grill


In 2007, Albert Borrero, went from loyal customer to bar owner when he bought the University of Miami hot spot Sandbar Sports Grill. During the first few years of his tenure Sandbar continued to be the top nightlife destination for the 21 and older college students; bringing in an average of $18,000 on Thursday nights.  

In 2010, the local city council established legislation to drive out the late-night rowdy crowd. Despite slower business in 2013, Albert’s friend and experienced restaurateur, Matt Gentile, bought into Sandbar. Matt offered up some great ideas however the bar still had a reputation as being a college bar.

Now, Sandbar fails to attract Coconut Grove’s refined demographic. Finding themselves losing $7,000 a month and $150,000 in debt, Albert and Matt are only two months away from closing their doors for good.


Coconut Grove is one of the more affluent areas of southern Florida and house hold incomes are upwards of a few hundred thousand dollars a year. With the new regulations and demographic the area is quite by 11pm making happy hour and dinner way more important revenue generating times of the day. Late night, what used to be Sandbar’s peek time is not as important any more.

The bar is definitely not hitting the demographic. With the metal siding, red wood and florescent lights the venue, a 3,000 square foot space with three service stations and a full kitchen in the back, has no class.

Inside the college dive bar theme continues with juice that comes out of a gun making the drinks way to sweet and flat beer. When beer is not kept under 39 degrees it pulls the CO2 out of the beer making it flat. All of the kegs at Sandbar are stored out in the open and not in a refrigerated area increasing the temperature.  And the bar continues to go downhill from there.

The bartenders don’t know how to make an old fashioned, shaking the cocktail instead of stirring it and then serving it in a martini glass!  In addition, the food is frozen processed food that hasn’t been properly cooked and could potentially get people sick.

The Sandbar is never going to capture the market if they can’t make and serve an old fashioned correctly or properly cook the food they serve. However, the biggest hurdle the bar faces is Albert.  

Albert is too focused on his fantasy football than his failing business.  He’s not into his bar, managing or satisfying his customers.  Instead he thinks that he is always right when it quite obvious he knows nothing about the bar business.  Matt is at his wits end and would be gone tomorrow if he could get even half of his initial investment back. Matt needs a managing partner, someone who works with him and protects his investment. Even during training Albert isn’t taking his position seriously. Instead of listening and learning he’s texting the entire time.  


In order to turn Sandbar around, Taffer needs to get Matt and Albert on the page.  They need to start working together managing the staff and the business through procedures and policies.

Bar Rescue Sandbar Sports Grill Miami

For the bar, Taffer brings in Mia Mastroianni. Mia’s expertise in designing upscale cocktail menus makes her the perfect fit to bring some class to this dated dive bar. Mia starts her training off by getting one bartender behind the bar to make her every single cocktail that is on their specialty cocktail list. She wants to see what they are working with, what products their using and then show them how to make one the right way.

The bartenders are not using any of the right ingredients. Therefore, Mia shows them how to make a hurricane using the right fresh ingredients; nothing from a gun and nothing from a can so they can taste the difference.

For the new cocktail menu Taffer and Mia decide to incorporate ice spheres. Ice Spheres allow for a visually stunning addition to cocktails. They also going to be flavored and act as a garnish and diluting agent.

There’s an interesting science behind ice spheres. When smaller sized ice cubes are used in a cocktail the faster the ice melts causing the cocktail to dilute; diminishing the flavor.  Of all possible shapes of ice, the sphere has the lowest surface to liquid ratio. The lower the ratio the longer it will take the ice to melt both maintaining the flavor and temperature of the cocktail.

For the kitchen, Taffer brings in renowned Chef Gavan Murphy. This personal chef for celebrities knows how to cater to a sophisticated demographic and is the ideal fit to bring a fresh taste to the upscale clientele of Coconut Grove. Gavan gets to work in the kitchen bringing the menu back the basics of fresh seafood; a must in southern Florida. The options that Gavan suggests will set the standard for a more sophisticate demographic.

Taffer and Gavan come up with a concept to serve the fresh meat and seafood raw to the customers with a hot rock that has been in the oven at 500 degrees.  This allows the customers to cook the food themselves and watch the meat and seafood sizzle on the dish.

Once the training concludes Taffer and his team get to work revamping the bar.  They completely restructure the outside of the bar with a contemporary finished look. On the inside customers will have a full view of the kitchen and backbar. They also incorporated multiple types of finishes throughout the bar adding to the value and perception of the venue.

Bar Rescue - The Hot Rocks Miami


Taffer transforms the Sandbar Sports Grill into The Hot Rock Bar & Grill and in their first hour they made $2,000. Six weeks after the relaunch food sales are up 10 percent and drink sales are up 20 percent.  Matt and Albert are continuing to work together successfully. 

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