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Robert de Varona

Robert de Varona, called "Mr. D" by many, is a Cuban-born entrepreneur who owns airport concession company Varona Enterprises and a standalone restaurant, Varona's, at 5121 North 12th Avenue. He is married to Eloise Lautier de Varona, a past president of Artel Gallery.

Robert de Varona
Born November 12, 1942
Camagüey, Cuba
Died October 11, 2016
Gulf Breeze, Florida
Occupation Restaurateur, entrepreneur
Spouse Eloise Lautier de Varona
Parents Roberto Ernesto and Delia Villar de Varona
Children Christina and Natasha de Varona

Born in Camagüey, Cuba,[1] Varona participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion against FIdel Castro's regime as a teenager, for which he was imprisoned for eighteen months.[2] He was released to America in 1962 with only $100 and a set of clothes.

Varona founded Varona Enterprises in 1972 and opened the first minority-owned airport concession at the Stapleton International Airport in Denver, plus other airport operations in Dallas-Ft. Worth, St. Louis and Orlando.[3] He moved to Pensacola in 1990[4] and now operates several concessions in the Pensacola Regional Airport, including Varona's café (originally called "Hangar Bay" before a $300,000 renovation in 2000[5]) and two gift shops.

In 2006 Varona announced plans to open a separate restaurant outside the airport. After contemplating two downtown locations — the site of the Lee House, demolished after Hurricane Ivan,[6] and the McCollough House, where his wife's Artel Gallery is located[7] — Varona chose to renovate the former State Farm Insurance building at 5121 North 12th Avenue, near the airport. The restaurant opened on April 8, 2008.[4]

He is a regular patron of the arts community and served as president of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra from 2005-2006.


  1. Varona Restaurants
  2. "Still Castro's Cuba." Pensacola News Journal, February 20, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Restaurateur to open new Cuban-style eatery." Pensacola News Journal, October 22, 2007.
  5. "Pensacola airport pushes to be better." Pensacola News Journal, August 11, 2000.
  6. "Lee House site plan reworked." Pensacola News Journal, July 18, 2006.
  7. "Plan for Cuban eatery scrapped." Pensacola News Journal, August 24, 2006.