Mikas is a Mozambican businessman and the owner of Social B in Lisbon, Portugal. He’s part restaurateur, part renaissance man. Always with a signature fedora welcoming patrons inside the mahogany doors of his speakeasy-style cocktail bar in the central part of the city.
He left Mozambique with his family as a teen due to the political climate. Before arriving on the new continent, he described life in his native country as “full of creativity.” “I came with my mom to Europe when I was 18. I traveled all over Europe, living and passing by,” says the artist and restauranteur. Yet, he admits there was always a pull. Something that brought him back from his travels to Lisboa, as the city is affectionately known by locals.
Doing Business His Way
In the 1980s, Lisbon was going through a cultural shift, and a vibrant nightlife was leading this change. “Barrio Alto was a bohemian place. Lisbon was changing. There was an opportunity to open a restaurant. I always wanted to chart my own path,” says Mikas, who is part of a small group of cultural curators who have pioneered Lisbon’s nightlife over the past 30 years.
He has a keen sense of his vision as an entrepreneur that is guided by his commitment to individuality. “I am this curious guy that loves to try.” Mikas’ unique twist when it comes to business is demonstrated in the many restaurants he’s launched in the last two decades, including his most recent venture Social B opened in 2017.
“I felt like, when I started in this business, that I was one more Black guy who was going to struggle a lot to get somewhere. At the time there were not many Black people doing these things,” says Mikas, who is candid about the reality of doing business as a Black man in Portugal. “Even today, you don’t have so many. For me to make my statement, I thought, ‘You’re going to love it, but you’re going to know that a Black guy is doing[it].’ Somehow I was just pushing for something.”
Mikas is no stranger to creating a life that he has control over, and his businesses demonstrate the tenacity with which he executes with each project. “I was showing to the system that it is possible a Black guy is doing something that is different, that is fun, that is incredible and that everybody knows. That struggle still exists all over, imagine!”
- Hernâni Miguel Creates a Place for Culture, Music and Food at Lisbon’s Tabernáculo
- Mozambique: Africa’s Trending Delicious Destination
Mikas is grateful for never giving up on the goals he’s had in life as an entrepreneur. “For me, I can say that I am fortunate. It is my determination, my guts, my drive. I want to go a certain way, and no one is going to push me to go a different way.”
The Artist and Businessman
“I was an artist and I used to paint and I was a sculptor. I had all these stages as an artist,” says Mikas, who has managed over 15 different restaurants in his time in Portugal. His eyes light up as he recounts all the rich experiences his life as a restaurateur has brought. “Jazz, flamingo dancing, character, soul, vibrant and magical,” all styles and words Mikas speaks about that many of his business ventures have featured. Being a restaurateur is more than just the lease you sign and the employees you hire, but more about the energy your business exudes.
In addition to owning and managing restaurants and rooftop bars that include Atira-te Ao, Bicaense, WIP (Work In Progress), Clube Ferroviário, A Tabacaria, Castelo do São Jorge, and Velho Senhora, Mikas also counts a record store in his business portfolio.
Free to Just B
Mikas says it’s more about leading with vision and less about imitating others. To that end, he intentionally makes an effort to source local produce and work with talented bartenders, chefs and musicians in Portugal to bring the Social B experience to life. At the discreet cocktail bar in the Cais do Sodré neighborhood on Rua da Boavista, Mikas has hosted artists such as Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation and live DJ sets.
When people step into the artistic location, they will be greeted by the renaissance man himself, enjoy African and Portuguese cuisine and the custom cocktails that Social B is known for. All you have to do is tell the bartender what kind of flavor profile—whether it’s spicy or sweet—you enjoy most, and find a seat below the larger-than-life rabbit artwork designed on the Portuguese tiled wall facing the bar area. It’s reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland says Mikas and the eclectic design has grown on him.
Just past the bar and the artwork is more seating: a high table that runs along the walk just past the bar. Adjacent to that is the iconic sign, Loads of Love, that once it’s lit adds to the intimate ambiance of the cocktail bar. Mikas is a master at curating just the right mood. “When people walk into Social B, I want them to leave their stress at the door.” In the rear of the restaurant is an upper room with cozy sofas and vibrant wall art.
“The focus of Social B is a pit stop for me,” says Mikas. He wanted to slow down after spending decades managing many restaurants. “Social B means anything you want; the ‘B’ represents that. For me, it’s ‘social’ because I want to be with my friends in this space. And this is my pit stop for me. When you come here, you feel like family here. African flavors, it’s a place to experience.”
- How to do Lisbon, Portugal in a Day
- Jennifer Moseley Cooking in Portugal! Plus: Home Entertaining Tips
Business During COVID-19 and Beyond
After an extended lockdown in Portugal, many businesses, including Social B, had no other choice but to operate as take-away as indoor dining was prohibited. Fortunately, in light of COVID-19 cases decreasing, the Portuguese government has allowed for businesses to operate with indoor and outdoor dining starting in May.
Mikas is hopeful that locals are eager to reconnect with old friends behind the celebrated doors of Social B. However, one thing is for sure, Mikas will be there to welcome them back.