The Beach Bar Dream in Panama…Come True

How one expat found a stress-free way to make a living while enjoying the good life.

by Jessica Ramesch
Beach Bar Panama, International Living
Located in the beach town of Coronado, Panama, Picasso is owned and run by British transplant Claire Ross.
Photograph: International Living

“A hangover and a Bloody Mary, please,” I hear someone say behind me.

It sounds like an odd request, until I learn that at Picasso Bar & Restaurant, “El Hangover” is a big, mean, meaty breakfast sandwich designed to cure the ills caused by the excesses of the night before.

Located in the Panamanian beach town of Coronado, the always happening Picasso is owned and run by British transplant Claire Ross.

Claire didn’t come to Panama intending to start a restaurant here, but while doing some consulting work in Panama City she found a town an hour’s drive away that has it all.

Claire was very clear on her list of priorities…and she wanted to check every box. She was looking for a place where she could ride her horse, walk her dogs, immerse herself in the local community, and live stress free. But she also wanted to have access to modern infrastructure and amenities.

Enter Coronado.

“A lot of people choose this beach town for its business opportunities and the excellent amenities,” Claire says. “It kind of smacks you in the face, how convenient life is here.”

Claire then began thinking about how to make a living in Panama. She had some experience in the restaurant business and the perfect property became available right on the town’s main drag.

She’s been open just under a year, and the way she tells it, the key to her success is threefold: live music, great people, and a prime location.

Panamanians and expats frequent Picasso—from folks coming dripping wet from the beach or people stopping off while walking their dog (pooches are welcome) to families showing up with their kids in tow, all walks of life make their way here.

Customers are used to low prices seen often in this part of the world – so Claire charges just $1 for a beer during happy hour from 3.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Claire credits a large part of her success to her staff—who she says are wonderfully friendly and attentive, and who care about her and the business. “There are so many excellent people here, a great pool from which you can hire if you start a business,” she says. And though she doesn’t require that her staff speak English, like many locals, they happen to speak it quite well.

She also found all the skilled labor she needed. “The construction crew were a godsend; we had one month to turn a house into a bar and restaurant, and with their help, we did it!”

Claire adds that reputable Panamanian professionals are the cornerstone to any good business in Coronado. Her lawyer, she says, has been a lifesaver. “She’ll drive up on a Sunday, have lunch and get me to sign some papers, and not charge me extra. And she has endless patience; I have a lot of questions.”

This article first appeared in International Living.

Related stories: Reinventing Rick's Cafe

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