Myabel Cocktail Bar and Restaurant - A dream come true in Croix-des-Bouquets

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • November 12, 2014 5:30 AM EST

Last year, a Haiti-centric higher-end restaurant opened in Croix-des-Bouquets, taking the middle-class Haitians and artisans living in this area just outside of Port-au-Prince by surprise.

The founders of Myabel Cocktail Bar and Restaurant wanted to bring something special to their hometown, to make it more desirable and draw other investors.

This dream was going to come at a high price, but it also brought a lot of satisfaction.

One of the restaurant founders, Regine Theodat, studied in the US to become a lawyer. After the earthquake she moved back to Haiti to do human rights work for one year, and stayed much past that. In Haiti she met Junior Abellard and Myrlene Dominique and joined them to open the Myabel Cocktail Bar and Restaurant.

Unable to get a loan in Haiti, the three partners had invested a six-figure amount mostly out of their own pockets to pursue this dream. They had to open the restaurant before some of the works were finished to be able to keep it going.

Myabel Cocktail Bar and Restaurant is very Haiti-centric, from the decor to uniforms, the food and cocktails. They use local ingredients and innovate on their cocktails made of Haitian rums, fruits and other goodies. All their cocktails use local ingredients and they are named after the areas of Croix-des-Bouquets.

"The entire restaurant is a celebration of Haitian culture," says Regine.

Building a Business in Haiti was a Roller Coaster

While the results are fulfilling, the process of building the business was a roller coaster.

"Starting a business in Haiti is not for the faint of heart, for sure. It's actually very challenging and the barriers of entry are incredibly difficult. So, unless you are definitely the kind of person that can stick things out, it's not for you," says Regine.

The three partners faced difficulties at every step of the way, from the long procedure of registering the business to financing it, doing construction work, hiring, training, and managing the employees.

"Where we are is not easy to find employees. Where we are we have people who know nothing about it, and we have to start them from scratch, people who have never worked. People who don't understand that 10 o’clock is 10 o’clock, and not 10:30. We had to change our staff twice over a year and a half time. I never realized how much of my time it would take me just to make sure people are doing what they were supposed to be doing."

On the other hand they are aware that each job they provide feeds a family.

Although the restaurant is being visited by travelers and local people the business is yet to break even. Regine thinks that one of the reasons is the location, which is not very central.

Operational cost is also higher due to the owners’ choice to use local products, even though it costs them a lot more than the imported ones. "It's much cheaper to buy imported good than local," says Regine.

However, even though things may not come easy, the founders stick to the dream of having their first restaurant in their hometown and make a difference in the local community.

"It's worth to see that people want to come from other areas down to Croix-des-Bouquets to eat at the restaurant," says Regine.

Building a larger vision

In the meantime Regine and her partners have developed a larger vision for their business. They are looking at opening a second, and even a third, location in the next 18 months in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel or Cap-Haitian.

They are also planning to take their unique cocktails and sauces to other markets in Haiti, and even export them to the US. They have already started testing the product in the US and have received good reactions.

"Our cuisine is definitely very competitive and can make people come to Haiti," says Regine.

She is in Haiti to stay, and together with her partners they are ready to follow their dream.