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A Restaurant's Closure Turns Into a Fabulous Party
Miami's favorite wine bar ends its run with a celebration
A wine bar saved my life.
That seems like a bold statement, but Bar Meli 69 — or (more specifically) its owner, Liza Meli, helped me find joy when I was at one of the lowest points in my life.
I had already been a regular to the small wine bar when my then-husband packed up and moved out without as much as a goodbye. I went to drown my sorrows in a few glasses of wine, Greek lemon potatoes, and some flaming saganaki (because you cannot be unhappy when someone brings you an inferno of cheese and freshly baked pita bread). Liza — immediately and intuitively — sensed something was wrong. She brought over a bottle of wine and sat down beside me, as I poured my heart out to her. That night, a restaurateur turned into a lifelong friend.
When I was forced to sell my house after the divorce, I moved into a temporary guest house, thinking it would be a month or two before I found a condo and closed on it. It turns out I lived in a studio without a kitchen for nearly a year. Thankfully, the place was just three blocks from Bar Meli, and I found myself there about three times a week. Once again, Liza rescued me with good food, plentiful wine, and friendship.
I eventually started dating, and Bar Meli would be the place for first dates. It was my safe space. If Liza approved of the match, she would signal it by setting down placemats at the bar — a sign that we should stay for a bite.
Liza, by the way, treated everyone who walked into her wine bar like this. She had the knack of making you feel like you had a special invite into her home. She turned customers into friends and friends into family. Bar Meli (as we called it) was a second home to many locals who craved the food and wine, yes, but also the hospitality. Stop in for a quick glass after work, and it was likely you would help Liza lock up at closing.
When she announced the closing of Bar Meli, Liza told me that expenses had gone up and it just wasn’t worth keeping the place open. She said that she would be opening an even smaller wine bar with food a few miles north in the coming months. And, in an act of defiance of Miamians having to secure a table weeks in advance in many trendy restaurants, she would call the new spot, No Reservations.
Bar Meli’s last official day of service was this past Saturday. On Sunday, she threw a party, inviting her friends, family, and loyal customers who ate her food and drank her wine for a decade.
Liza set up glasses and wine on a table. Other tables were filled with hummus, dolmas, salads, and plenty of meat. “I ordered extra lamb, and didn’t sell out,” she explained as she floated from guest to guest, offering lamb chops and merguez sausage from a platter.
That evening, strangers because friends as we talked to each other. After all, we have something in common — Liza and her magical wine bar.
As the evening progressed, guitarist Alex Fox played as Liza pulled a stack of dishes. “Ahhhh..Liza is in a good mood,” one regular proclaimed as she broke the dishes in the Greek tradition of warding off bad luck. It’s also a symbol of beginnings and endings — much like the evening.
As we said goodbye to Bar Meli, we looked forward to No Reservations and many more evenings sipping wine and breaking bread with Liza and friends both old and new. Because when it comes down to it, good wine and good food are wonderful, but it takes friendship and hospitality to make an evening truly memorable.