Raising the Bar: Bar Molino

Words By Ambar Ramirez


Fortunately for me and all of Jacksonville, Bar Molino is situated perfectly in the heart of San Marco. With its large glass-paneled wall and outdoor deck, it’s an ideal spot to catch up with friends or family, no matter the weather. It’s also where I had the pleasure of meeting the co-founders of Bar Molino, Alfred Young and Kurt Rogers, who, in my view, are not only raising the bar for restaurant ownership and management but are also redefining what a neighborhood bar can provide.


Becoming a restaurant owner doesn’t happen overnight — let alone, a restaurant with a unique menu and over 2,000 bottles of Spanish wine. Wanting to be a chef from a young age, Rogers took a more realistic approach to achieve that goal. Since he was 15 years old, Rogers has been in hospitality. He’s done it all from washing dishes to answering phones, eventually working his way up to the front of the house. But the true game changer happened once he stepped foot behind the bar.  


“I ended up behind the bar one year and fell in love with it. I was like, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Rogers recalled. “This is before the craft cocktail boom and all of that. And then when that started happening, I was like, OK, there’s more to it than just slinging Jack and Cokes.” 


Once Rogers got a taste of working behind the bar during “the craft cocktail boom,” doors began to open. And after working as the beverage director at Restaurant Orsay he and his partners opened Sidecar, where he worked for the next nine years. Then, one day, Rogers sat down for coffee with Young. 


Young was following a path similar to that of Rogers’ when he entered the hospitality industry at the age of 14. After exploring other avenues in civil service, he eventually went back into hospitality and climbed the corporate ladder where he discovered a company that he could develop and invest in. By the time he sold his corporate shares, Bar Molino was born.


“So we sat down, had some coffee and kind of talked out all these different options and kind of thought about what made sense, and we landed on this space and this concept as our first outing of the restaurant group,” Rogers said. “And then what? Eight months, nine months later? And here we are.” 


Bar Molino was built on that idea: a place where friends can get together and enjoy each other’s company without the distraction of TV screens or loud music. Instead, guests can catch up over coffee or a glass of Spanish wine. 


“Obviously, when you fall in love with a region’s wine or country’s wine, you’re going to start exploring the food culture,” Rogers shared. “So, you know, it started off as just a small wine shop. And then through the course of our talking over about kind of what the space needed and what the neighborhood needed, it grew and blossomed into a full-blown restaurant with a wine shop.”


Besides the plentiful wine options, Bar Molino offers a uniquely curated menu with everything from Spanish tapas to Spanish-inspired desserts. And most of all, an unforgettable experience. 


“It could have been easy to do anything else, you know, but everybody else is already doing that,” Rogers said. “It’s almost a mantra at this point that I think that we live by is that we would rather try something difficult and new and fall flat on our faces —that would suck —but at least we tried, and we tried to do what we thought was right and new and exciting, [instead of falling] into the role of just being another place out of 100.”


Young and Rogers worked hard at not only creating a notable neighborhood bar that is being recognized all throughout Jacksonville but also creating a staff that makes it feel like once you step through Bar Molino’s doors, you are stepping into a family’s home. In fact, before the restaurant was even open, Young held kitchen training for staff right in his own home. 


“We spent a month training everybody. You can’t open something this unique and have the staff not know what they’re talking about,” Young said. “Every one of them is a part of this. It’s absolutely the group pulling together. And I think that’s part of the reason why they’re all still here because it’s not just a job; it’s what they do.”


When it comes to Jacksonville’s perception of what a neighborhood bar is and how we treat hospitality workers, I think we can all agree that Bar Molino is truly raising the bar. 


About Ambar Ramirez

Flipping through magazines for as long as she can remember, Ambar Ramirez has always known she wanted to be a journalist. Fast forward, Ambar is now a multimedia journalist and creative for Folio Weekly. As a recent graduate from the University of North Florida, she has written stories for the university’s newspaper as well as for personal blogs. Though mainly a writer, Ambar also designs and dabbles in photography. If not working on the latest story or design project, she is usually cozied up in bed with a good book or at a thrift store buying more clothes she doesn’t need.