Humility and honor are worth more than wisdom.
These words are boldly tattooed on the chest of Raul Garcia, the new General Manager of The Belmont.
Raul is a visionary with years of high-end experience in the restaurant/nightclub/bar industry.
Originally from South America, Raul has worked and managed some of the top spots in Miami Beach and New York City. He now brings his wealth of experience and his original ideas to the Austin area.
Expect to see great things from The Belmont.
Success in Miami and NYC
Despite his extensive experience and knowledge of his industry, Raul is a humble person who lives by the words inked on his chest. I had the opportunity to sit with Raul for an interview and was mesmerized by his story and moved by his sincerity.
Hailing from Ecuador, Raul came to Miami at the age of one. At fourteen, he began his career in the food industry working for Gabe’s, a hamburger joint in the suburbs of Miami. When he was 17 years old, his passion for art and his lifestyle on the streets of Miami led him to be involved in the art of graffiti.
In 1999, Raul hooked up with Penrods, a biker/surfer bar right on the famous South Beach in Miami. Raul made a name for himself as a bartender and quickly shifted into promotions for the club. He launched Naranjas, an exclusive, high-end club night at Penrods. It wasn’t long before Raul was being contacted by affluent party-goers from South America. Ultimately, Raul was able to bring an enormous amount of success and recognition to himself and the club during his time at Penrods.
After two years, Raul moved on to The Forge, a Miami icon known for having one of the largest private wine collections on the Eastern seaboard and over $100,000,000 worth of artwork in the establishment.
Fueled by Passion Not Money / The Start of Dade Wear
As Raul shares his story with a humility that can’t be faked, he mentions, “I don’t get too influenced by the money part, but passion is what drives me.” True to his words, Raul started a clothing line, D.A.D.E. (Down and Dirty Ethic), commonly known as Dade Wear. Raul’s clothing line has a hip urban feel that gained notice in the Hip-Hop community and has been worn on MTV by artists such as American Rapper and Producer Trick Daddy.
After The Forge closed its doors for renovation, Raul began work with the Opium Group – the hottest nightclub managing group in Miami. However, it wasn’t long before he met a friend who enticed him to move to New York City. In 2008, Raul moved to NYC and began to bartend at PJ Clark’s and Casa La Femme, while still working on his clothing line.
Missing his friends and business partners in Miami, Raul returned to Florida a year later. One of his partners, Raul Sanchez, had hooked up with a galleria of publishers that represented street artists – Raul’s passion. So Raul and Raul teamed up to open a bar in what was then one of the worst spots in Miami. It was ridiculously successful and known simply as Bar.
Bar attracted some incredibly well-known DJs and a whole new crowd that was much more in line with Raul’s scene. It became the unofficial headquarters of expanding clothing line Dade Wear, and featured artwork and a halfpipe for skaters. Though it was only open for a year, Bar made its mark. Raul and Raul also realized that they had captured a nightclub recipe that could work anywhere. Not finished with his connections in New York, Raul headed back to the Big Apple.
Dade Wear was taking off even more quickly during this time, and Raul spent much of his time as a socialite in NYC. He started making a lot of parties happen and was wildly successful in that arena, but when the relationship he was in faltered, and a project he was doing with a fine dining pizza joint failed due to an owner dispute, NYC started to leave a bad taste in his mouth.
But Raul met a girl – a Texan – and they hit it off.
Bringing Years of Experience and Vision to Austin
Unfortunately, Raul’s new girlfriend found out that a close family member had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They made the decision to move to Austin together, to be closer to her family.
Raul was nervous about what he was going to do in Texas, having never been in the State before. After all the craziness in New York, Raul wanted to lay low, clock in, clock out and collect tips. He arrived two weeks before SXSW 2012 and applied for basic bartending jobs posted on Craigslist. Five days after arriving in Austin, Raul was the managing bartender at The Belmont.
That didn’t last long.
Raul’s resume said it all. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut about improvements that could be made and ways The Belmont could maximize business. The owners of the Belmont took notice. In short order, Raul was promoted to floor manager and then to General Manager.
At The Belmont, Raul saw an opportunity to introduce elements of success he had used through his career, specifically in the areas of artwork, food and exclusive events. Originally, The Belmont was going to be a restaurant, but Raul has a much larger vision and it appears that the owners have been receptive to his ideas.
As of this writing, Raul is developing some amazing stuff for The Belmont.
Part of Raul’s vision is to have the entire venue turned into a massive art gallery. Artists are given an opportunity to pitch their ideas through a digital 3-D rendition of the entire establishment. If accepted, the artist is commissioned to do the work and turn The Belmont into one massive canvas.
In addition, Raul has partnered with local area food trucks who are providing some of Austin’s most famous food to guests of The Belmont.
Taking Calculated Risks To Raise the Bar in Austin
Will this be Raul’s masterpiece? Will the owners continue to give him creative freedom to do something magnificent on 6th Street? My team at The Austinot hopes so. Guys like Raul don’t come around very often. When you find someone like him, you need to give him the authority and responsibility to make decisions.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what Raul and his staff do with this venue. The potential is limitless and they have a true visionary at the wheel. With someone who lives by the motto “Humility and honor are better than wisdom,” combined with the experience that he brings to Austin, I think you have a risk-taker who will make sound decisions. I can’t encourage the owners enough to let him create.
The Belmont can hold 1,000 people, has a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, and features a lower level and upstairs outdoor patio, as well as several VIP areas. I highly recommend you check this place out.
P.S. If you are reading this Raul, you need to hook me up with a shirt from Dade Wear. XL please and make it snazzy.
Have you been to the Belmont lately? What do you think?