To the outside eye, when it comes to social life, the University of Miami seems to offer everything: pool parties, world renowned clubs, Greek life and Michelin–starred restaurants. UM students have a world-class city at their disposal. The one thing missing? A go-to off-campus college bar.
Enter: The Wharf.
The Wharf has a chokehold on the 21+ population of UM,” said Keenan Baldus, a junior at the University of Miami. He’s not wrong. Every Friday, a drove of UM students over the age of 21 (or anyone underage with a generous friend who looks like them) traipses to the Brickell fan favorite for happy hour.
We don’t have places like Potbelly’s or The Boot (icons to FSU and UF students, respectively) here. The Wharf is Miami’s answer to a college bar, and what a nice one at that. The open-air venue sits alongside the Miami River, adorned with food trucks and several bars with $1 beer and $3 wine during happy hour.
By the time you’re an upper-classman, it’s easy to fall into habits: You see the same people in classes for your major, go to parties with the same people and get involved in the same organizations. The beauty of The Wharf is
in how it brings people (who otherwise might not hang out) together. The hotspot sure makes it easy to mingle. If you go to happy hour, you’re bound to run into everyone you know: from freshman year floormates to that ex you really don’t want to see flirting with other people yet.
Seems like the perfect rite of passage for UM students: going to The Wharf on Fridays, a long-lasting tradition. What could possibly change this?
Breakwater Hospitality Group, the company behind The Wharf, announced in December 2021 that it is temporarily closing The Wharf to build a $185 million Dream Hotel and entertainment complex set to include a 165-room hotel, deep water yacht marina, multiple entertainment/food/beverage locations and, brace yourself, a “reimagined” Wharf Miami.
The comfort of our beloved quasi-college bar will never be the same.
It announced that groundwork will begin sometime in 2022, with an estimated construction end date in 2025. Breakwater said it plans to keep The Wharf open throughout the initial construction stages, but no formal dates have been announced.
They’re probably being purposefully vague about this not to alarm faithful Wharf goers, but the mere size of the hotel going on its land (and anyone familiar with Miami’s lengthy construction timelines) tells you it will be at least a couple of years before whatever new version of our beloved bar is open again.
In the mean time, those of us who know and love The Wharf now will be long gone with no one to pass on the tradition to. By then, the next generation of ‘Canes will have found a different spot and memories at The Wharf will be a UM thing no more.
Breakwater was unavailable to comment on this matter at time of publication. But, in a Miami New Times article, Emi Guerra of Breakwater said that The Wharf was always going to be temporary.
“When we first acquired the site, there was no real history to see if it would be a successful location for what we hoped to do here,” she said in the story. “We never knew how long it would last, but we consider ourselves fortunate The Wharf has lasted this long. More so, we’re excited to be able to grow the concept into something more permanent.”
For UM students who are 21 or above, some of the happiest of Friday hours have been spent laughing and sharing drinks along the river. But, as times change, so do going out habits. Just look at The Grove. Its popularity declined over the years and The Wharf ended up becoming more popular than Monty’s.
Although we don’t know how The Wharf will change during this period, one thing is for certain: UM students will never let anything get between them and happy hour deals. When The Wharf closes for construction, we’ll find a new spot to make our Friday hangout home.
You’ll Be Missed
- “I really like the fact that they do events on holidays—like they had a Harry Potter night and they gave out Santa hats for Christmas. It’s where we know that people our age will be going. By the end of senior year, it’s like a big reunion.” — Allegra Rosa, senior
- “The Wharf is appealing to so many students because it’s a unique and atypical Miami experience. It’s an outdoor place where people can have conversations with people, you see everyone from all four years and you have relatively cheap drinks and great food. It’s a great combination of things that make Miami exceptional.” — Mario Suarez, senior
- “As a BFA student not in Greek life, I feel very connected to UM when I go to The Wharf because I always see people I know. Sometimes I reconnect with people that I haven’t met since I was a freshman.” — Greta Hicks, senior
- “I feel like it’s the cheap drinks paired with the outside space really brings the UM crowds. A bunch of broke college kids will hardly ever turn down $1 beers.” — Jack Ertel, senior
- “It’s a really easy and fun way to get to see everyone who you may not have seen during the week. I think post-COVID, it was a really good thing to have because we had spent so much time not being able to all be together and it gives you a sense of normalcy after having a good portion of our college experience be extremely affected by it.” — Allison Hochauser, senior
- What attracts UM students? “The fact that there’s no freshmen.” — Carrie Furman, senior
- “Considering my roommates are also older juniors, I go to The Wharf a lot with them; but, I’ve definitely met and gotten closer with a lot of seniors because of the fact that only we can go to The Wharf. One of my roommates who’s not 21 definitely feels left out that he can’t come.” — Barak Koren, junior
words_scarlett diaz. photo_lily darwin. design_keagan larkins & lauren maingot.
This article was published in Distraction’s spring 2022 print issue.