The Miami entertainment and culinary scene continue to heat up, with new concepts popping up every month. Emilio "Emi" Guerra, one of the founders of Breakwater Hospitality Group and a Miami native, is all too familiar with the growing hospitality industry and has played a vital role in developing some of the most iconic South Florida staples.
Guerra shared Breakwater Hospitality Group started as a way to expand the brand after creating The Wharf. The company continues to unveil new and unique entertainment venues and concepts, expanding across South Florida and the country.
With Breakwater Hospitality Group and The Wharf Miami celebrating its fifth anniversary, Ocean Drive caught up with Guerra to discuss future projects, including reopening the iconic JohnMartin’s and reflecting on the success achieved since 2017.
Photo Courtesy: Breakwater Hospitality Group
What was your main goal when creating Breakwater Hospitality Group?
Our primary purpose was to create places that cater to unique experiences. Every single location has either a story behind it or the actual site is the story. For example, The Wharf in Miami and Fort Lauderdale are on the water. Miami’s location is along the Miami River, the heart and soul of Miami. These locations are all unique, and as a company, we wanted to create memorable and unique projects.
What goes into creating these unique concepts and experiences?
I’ve found people’s purpose for going out is much different from when I started working in this industry. You have to get behind the motive or the intent of people wanting to go and then produce events that cater to it. Whether it is to celebrate a special occasion or not, you need to anticipate a guest's needs. For example, at The Wharf, we have multiple areas that can be activated. You can either sit back and look at boats, have a relaxing time with family and friends, have a casual drink or eat at the food trucks. We provide a platform for our guests to write their own stories and design our locations to give people that opportunity.
How has Miami’s recent population growth impacted the South Florida hospitality industry?
Twenty-plus years ago, I opened up venues in downtown Miami and saw Miami grow to what it is today. Miami has a significant number of visionaries and people who are part of our population and have contributed to the community. We have great operators that have come all around from other cities that have opened up shop in Miami, and I think it’s been incredible for the scene. Having been born and raised here, I believe it has created an opportunity to create unique places and experiences. One of the things that the company saw, which was very beneficial for us, was that everyone wanted to be outside again during the pandemic and enjoy the fresh air. This continued afterward, and we were in a great position to utilize that.
What would you say your secret to success is?
We try not to take ourselves too seriously. Instead, we work to develop a playful experience for people to have a good time. We want to create a place for people to walk through our doors and forget their troubles. We want to be their escape.
Photo Courtesy: Breakwater Hospitality Group
You are currently working on the new Riverside Wharf location. What do you hope it brings to the area, and how is it different from past projects?
Riverside Wharf is a culmination of all our years in hospitality and our vision for this city. Riverside Wharf will have a Dream Hotel with over 160 rooms and a Wharf that is more elevated and much bigger than The Wharf today. It is an evolution of the legacy we are currently building.
It will also house several signature restaurants, a world-class nightclub and a day club. It really is everything Breakwater has worked towards. I hope it raises the bar in relation to how people view Miami as a world-class destination, something Miami already is, but we just hope to contribute to it.
What does this upcoming anniversary mean to you?
I’m humbled and so appreciative of the support we’ve received from all our guests and everyone in this city. I actually get teary-eyed just thinking about it. When we created The Wharf, we were looking for what was next. I’ve always been into nightlife and nightclubs, and as our friends grew older, we set out to create something more accessible, and we took a chance in doing so. It’s a dream come true, and I don’t say that very often.
In 2023, we are embarking on the biggest project we’ve ever done, and just the fact that we’ve been able to go through this journey of a little pop-up of a few food trucks and we're going to turn it into this big development down the road is just humbling. It’s not only changed my life but hopefully has also changed the lives of everyone who embarked on this journey.
What's next, and what are your hopes for the future?
My wife and I are expecting a baby; but work-related, we have multiple projects under construction in Miami, Bayside, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. We are expanding our brand into several markets outside of South Florida, specifically in Texas, Las Vegas and northern Florida. Our goal is to expand our reach and do so with a smile and a positive attitude.
Photography by: Photo Courtesy: Breakwater Hospitality Group