“I ended up buying a functioning bar all by myself, and here I am”

Name: Mike Leccese
My City: Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic
Born: Montreal 1953
Profession: Director of operations, and consultant in the food industry

PUNTA CANA: “I have a dream….”; was the famous words by Martin Luther King some decades ago. We all dream, some people, as retirement approach, about opening a small beach-bar on a remote tropical place. Meet Mike who has made his dream come true, in the Caribbean island of The Dominican Republic. Strutting with energy and with a solid gut-feeling, he refurbished and opened Oasis Montreal, Sports Bar and Grill.

Getting tired of the cold Canadian weather Mike investigated on the Internet about a place to make his escape. He wanted somewhere with warm climate, and easily accessible from his hometown in Canada. At the end, the options stood between Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. I found the cost of living much cheaper in Dominican Republic, so I flew down here with a friend about one and a half year ago. We had no clear idea what to do, but to make a long story short, I ended up buying a functioning bar all by myself, and here I am.

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 Where do you live? Playa Bavarò, in the Punta Cana area of The Dominican Republic.

Here I grew up: Montreal, Canada

My first memory: After looking at various options, I fell in love with this bar at the first sight. Right on the beach, among some other bars and restaurants, squeezed in between big tourist resorts. What really made up my mind was that I met Alexandra Montero (32), a local already working there. Now she is my General Manager and right hand. To have someone you can trust and who knows the local environment is essential. I think Alexandra sometimes wish I had chosen Costa Rica instead. My Spanish is improving by the day, but I still have to heavily rely on Alexandra. Especially when I’m about to freak out because of my lack of understanding the culture, Alexandra put me back on track. My best investment so far was to pay an English course for Alexandra, and she has become very fluent in short time. One of my main objectives moving down here was that I want to integrate in the culture, so now I guess it’s my turn to learn to speak Spanish properly.

How do you find the best places to eat when you travel? I have been in different occupations in the food industry my whole life, so I tend to explore different options of both local and international cuisine, but I tend to lean towards small local places.

My favorite place to eat: My retirement has turned out to be working and staying on the premises 24/7, so even if there are a few very good restaurants around here, I haven’t had much time to explore. At the moment I have most of my meals here at Oasis Montreal. I would really like to get to know many of the local restaurants around here though.

What do you eat? The abundance of fresh seafood here makes me eat lobster, fish and shrimps at all times.

My favorite bar: When I take the time to go out (and Alexandra agrees), I go to Coco Bongo. It is a discotheque frequented by both locals and tourists alike. Great shows and relaxed atmosphere. Address: Carretera Barcelo-Veron Esq. El Boulevard, Centro Comercial Downtown Punta Cana.

Taxi or other local transport: I rent a car sometimes, but locally I use “Moto-conchos”, which are motorcycle taxis. They cost just a few cents, and they get you where you want to go, traffic or not.

 Where next: It will still be some short trips to Toronto, once in a while.

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