Founder Lords South Beach, Miami's new gay hotel
by Kelsy Chauvin
Alot of kids grow up playing house. Brian Gorman grew up playing hotel. "When I was ten years old, I was obsessed with hotels," he says. "I remember setting up this TV tray in the entry hall of my parents' house and checking people into their room. I would take a rubbing of their credit card with my pencil. Then, I would walk them to their room and give them a fake hotel keychain."
His youthful exuberance is now a fantasy fulfilled. The 35-year-old native New Yorker is founder of Lords South Beach (1120 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tel: 877-448-4754. www.lordssouthbeach.com), the hottest (and only) proclaimed "gay hotel" in Miami's South Beach. Gorman opened the 54-room Lords on December 29, 2010, just in time to ring in the New Year with fabulous soirées filled with gay celebrities like Justin Bond, Richie Rich, DJ Tracy Young, Cazwell, and Amanda Lepore.
With the help of design studio BH+DM, Gorman found inspiration for the hotel's style based on the mood he wanted to create: fun, free, and feeling at home. He succeeded, and now Lords maintains around 85 percent occupancy, drawing a primarily gay crowd.
"I wanted a place where you walk in and it's like walking in the door of your house, where everything kind of falls off you," says Gorman. "That big exhale comes, and you're just ready to chill."
Sitting on the front lanai—newly renamed to evoke the ultimate Miami sitcom, The Golden Girls, Gorman could easily be mistaken for a vacationer. His everyday wear of shorts and sneakers befits the casual local attitude, not to mention his beach-cruiser bicycle, which he says is his current favorite thing about Miami, and not just for the three-minute-long commute it affords him.
His sense of serenity, however, came only after much hard work to open Lords. The endeavor began a few years ago, when he decided to apply his years of real estate, branding, and business development expertise to a hotel of his own. He partnered with Miami's Cambean Hospitality, a well-established firm with a portfolio of posh Art Deco District hotels. Together, they set their sights on the four-story Hotel Nash, which had undergone a renovation ten years prior, but was ripe for a new look to replace its aging cream and periwinkle walls.
Today, Gorman's vision has injected new life into the Collins Avenue luxury/shopping strip, bringing an oasis of chic, innovative art and design to the beachside. He has capitalized on its location, just a block from the ocean, as well as the local retro appeal. The best part is, he's made it affordable at rates averaging around $150 a night.
"Miami was ready for something like this," he says. "This is an international town. There are very few cities in the United States that have such an international flavor. I think one of the things about Miami that's so different from other destinations is the architecture. It's just so interesting, and you walk around and you can put yourself in a different time, and that lends itself to people who are creative. Also, the influence of Latin America has really shaped a subculture that most US cities don't have."
It's clear that this enthusiastic hotelier has deliberated on every detail, with particular attention paid to the various stages of the guest experience. To begin with, each guest's arrival is met with a greeting from a nine-foot-tall fiberglass polar bear holding a beach ball—Gorman's way to instantly "disarm" people and inject some humor into their welcome. A long curving sofa wraps around the lobby, framing a table adorned with various LGBT-interest magazines. The cool terrazzo floor and high ceilings invite calm, and white, bright yellows, and turquoises bring a modern slant to classic South Beach style.
Similarly vivid color schemes carry into the rooms, with their striped carpets and mod furniture. Sassiness prevails, right down to the "Oh yes!" and "Oh no!" doorknob hangers for maid service. It's these bits of personality that pair serious vacationing with true joie de vivre at Lords South Beach.
The Cha Cha Rooster bar and restaurant is the hotel's contribution to the local dining scene, taking its name from a combination of the "wild, loose women of the 1920s" nicknamed "roosters," and the overriding cha-cha "vibe of Miami." A favorite among critics, locals, and guests, the restaurant's menu of local fish, short ribs, and seasonal greens reads like a healthier, gourmet take on comfort food. It serves as further evidence of that at-home vibe Gorman is cultivating.
After sunset, the nightclub takes over at the Cha Cha Bar, where shimmering gold tiles may make you feel like you're sipping Champagne inside a gilded disco ball. A mostly gay crowd floods in for weekly parties, and of course the drink specials and signature cocktails that come with them. That includes the "Punch Brunch Pool Party" every Sunday afternoon, and the biweekly, Saturday, lesbian pool party that Gorman says is one of his favorite affairs at the hotel.
The "rooster" theme plays out through the whole establishment, with portraits of influential women adorning most walls. A silk-screen of Debbie Harry watches over the lobby, while sculptor Louise Nevelson's knowing eyes oversee the restaurant entrance. In the rooms, guests may find themselves sleeping under Elizabeth Taylor in her Cleopatra headwear.
"The thinking behind it is that there are all these elements celebrating diversity, but also celebrating personality," says Gorman. "So throughout the property you'll see very, very strong women who have personally been influential in my life, and some of whom I've been obsessed with."
"And then the food and beverage concept was developed around this idea of the stereotypical Miami woman, who's very over-tanned, wears too little clothing and too much makeup and jewelry, and it all seems like too much…but then you kind of like it," he explains. "And that's the thing about Miami, you feel like you can be a little more out there."
Gorman and Lords also prove that fun can easily be paired with direct community support. When guests stay in one of five "Rooms That Matter," ten percent of the proceeds go directly to that room's assigned charity. They include Lambda Legal, Aqua Foundation for Women, the Hetrick-Martin Institute for at-risk LGBTQ youth, the Point Foundation for LGBT student mentoring, and Care Source, which supports the HIV/AIDS community in southern Florida. Gorman says the program is "the part I am most proud of in this entire process."
Adding to that strong network is Miami's new LGBT Visitor Center, opened in April 2010 as an affiliate of the local Chamber of Commerce. The only combined gay- and tourist-centric organization in the country, Gorman says the center has made a key difference in his success, and that it's this sort of altruistic spirit that sets Miami apart.