Canadian nightlife king and restaurateur Charles Khabouth made his entry in the US restaurant industry by testing Miami's waters with Byblos. Now he's making the Magic City his second home.
Charles Khabouth launched Byblos in South Beach after regularly visiting since his 20s. “I love the energy, the lifestyle, the whole landscape,” he says.
“It’s not about just opening another steak and potato place,” says Charles Khabouth, owner of Byblos, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant and lounge in the heart of South Beach. “That doesn’t drive me.” What does is shaping Canada’s hospitality industry with a whopping 17 venues and counting. That and global domination—with Byblos Dubai and numerous concepts in Miami—are what keeps Khabouth living on the edge.
Why did you put Dubai on hold and open Byblos in Miami first? We get requests all over the world for Byblos and we just opened Dubai last month, but I’ve been coming to South Beach regularly since my 20s. I’m talking 15, 20 times a year. I love the beach, I love the energy, I love the lifestyle, I love the whole landscape.
You have a place in South of Fifth. I ride my bike every day. I never thought I would go to a meeting in shorts, shirt, and a little bit sweaty, but here we are!
We hear you have several concepts planned for 2017. It was very important for us to grow. I’m an aggressive businessman in a way of expansion, so I was constantly looking for more to do in Miami, and we’ve already signed three deals. A couple are on Ocean Drive.
The Gulab, served with rose water mist and fresh flowers.
You are bullish on Ocean Drive… Celano will be the first brand-new construction on Ocean Drive in a long time. They took over the oldest building on the street (Park Central) and three other buildings and are massively renovating them. We’ll have a very active bar and two restaurants there, one Spanish and the other is what we’re calling “coastal Mediterranean.” Tourists always expect to come to Miami and have great fish, and I find there’s a lack of really great seafood restaurants.
Let’s talk about that active bar. Ocean Drive is more about the big sugary drinks, and that’s not at all what we are doing. The focus will be on great craft cocktails with a twist. If you’ve had the spirit cold tea service at Byblos, then you know to expect something unpredictable.
Speaking of Byblos, the lounge is open and popping. It adds another dimension, extends the evening. People have an opportunity to have a drink or two before or after dinner. We have a live DJ every night and entertainment, whether it be a saxophone player or dancers. It’s quite sexy, perfect lighting, and very conducive to dining and lounging. A lot of people come to Miami and don’t want to just go to dinner and then go back to their hotel rooms. This allows people to do a little more.
In the intimate dining room, accordion-folded wall panels with an image of Cleopatra add to the ambience.
You’re also venturing off the beach. Coconut Grove is experiencing a renaissance. Seven of the best schools are there, and we’ve been asked to do a 5,000-square-foot rooftop restaurant and bar on a new building right across the street from Barnacle Park.
You have several nightclubs in Canada. Are any in the works for Miami? For me it’s about the right opportunity at the right time. Timing is crucial. If the right opportunity and space came to me, I would do it. 1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-508-5041