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The Deck on 13th, finally open on an up-and-coming corridor north of Flagler Village, should have a place your list of favorite Fort Lauderdale bars.
Located next door to the popular LoveLee Bake Shop and a few blocks west of Milk Money Bar & Restaurant and Gulf Stream Brewing, the Deck on 13th adds a laidback lounge to the eclectic mix on Northeast 13th Street in Fort Lauderdale’s Lake Ridge neighborhood, a rising destination for nightlifers looking for the next new thing.
There are many obvious reasons to like the Deck on 13th, not only a triumph over COVID but also symbolic of the against-the-odds determination of its female ownership, J.J. Rojas and Laura Serrano.
The Deck on 13th is quirky and funky on the inside, revitalized thrift-store finds and estate-sale refugees arranged into inviting conversation nooks, walls crawling with creativity. One wall displays a collection of old-school cameras, another a couple dozen vintage clocks, while a third is covered like moss with vinyl 45s. It’s like a visit to your zany aunt’s house, the one who hung out with Warhol in New York.
There is craft beer on tap (Funky Buddha, Cigar City and Veza Sur represented) and in cans; an interesting selection of wine (nice to see Oregon’s Other People’s Pinot Noir, a personal favorite); and cheese and charcuterie (in addition to Lola’s tacos and sliders from the food truck out back).
Outside, the vibe is all backyard chill, its namesake deck shaded by a sun sail, picnic tables dotting green grass, at night illuminated by strings of cafe lights. The backside of the building, once storage space for what had been a retail store up front, is covered in rustic wood siding, like an old backyard garden shed. It feels right.
The thoughtfulness, warmth and humility of the Deck on 13th is a reflection of its owners.
Both women came to the U.S. more than a decade ago from their native Barranquilla, Colombia. Rojas spent years traveling the world on cruise ships performing as a DJ and percussionist. Serrano works in real estate.
Their ribbon cutting at a 13th Street inaugural festival in December of 2019 was ceremonial — Rojas and Serrano were still waiting on permits and a beer-wine license — but the Wilton Manors residents kept opening the doors during subsequent festivals, farmers markets and other events so people could look around.
They persevered through remodeling, permitting and the pandemic, and opened on Aug. 7. Rojas calls the response of the neighborhood “heartwarming.”
“We didn’t have big investors jumping in. It was just two regular people, with dreams, trying to create a place that everybody feels at home,” Rojas says.
The yard where kids and dogs now roam was once a place where homeless would congregate, but Rojas says her confidence in the potential of 13th Street never wavered.
“We saw that street had a purpose. The vision of the landlord, the vision of the community … We needed the street and the street needed us. It was a mission,” she says.
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One wall facing the backyard deck is covered in a bold mural of artist Frida Kahlo, who Rojas describes as a muse and a role model.
“We’re proudly Spanish, black, lesbian women business owners. [Kahlo] needed a male figure [Diego Rivera] to open the doors for her. Sadly, up to today, most females, unless a guy vouches for them, they don’t get the real appreciation, the real respect,” Rojas says.
“We opened this business, just two women, doing it by themselves,” she says. “We saw it so many times, people come to us and they will say that because we’re a woman, we don’t know what’s going on, we don’t know how to do it, we need a guy to do it for us. And we proved to every single person that we could do it ourselves. And we did it.
“That’s what Frida represents. To empower women to be able to do what they want by themselves, by their talent, by their professionalism, by their knowledge.”
The Deck on 13th is at 545 NE 13th St. It opens at 3 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, closed Monday. Live music or a DJ will be featured most days. Admission and parking are free. Call 954-306-6070 or visit Facebook.com/thedeckon13.