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Peter Mehas
The Grand Resort and Spa, Ft. Lauderdale

by Joseph Schmitt
Five years after graduating from Transylvania University (yes, there is such a place!) in Lexington, KY, with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, and after my first partner and I broke up, I decided to visit an old friend from Lexington who was in Ft. Lauderdale,” says Peter Mehas. “I had never been here before, and soon after returning from that vacation I found myself packing up all I could fit into my Honda Civic hatchback and heading south on I-75.” This is all back when George Michael’s sexuality was still a Careless Whisper and Madonna was still Like a Virgin.

During his tenure in the hospitality field, Peter has worked at some of South Florida’s finest hotels, including Hotel InterContinental Miami, the famous Doral Golf Resort and Spa, and The Hotel Sofitel Miami. “Needing a respite from the pressures of large hotels, I decided to take a few years off from the hotel industry in 1998,” Peter explains. “But then in October of 2004, The Grand Resort and Spa (www.grandresort.net) offered me a return to the industry that is my passion, and that I had missed for six years, to work as the Guest Services Manager.”

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Please tell our readers about The Grand Resort and Spa.
The Grand Resort was born in 1999, which means we are celebrating ten years this year! In 2001 an enterprising gentleman by the name of Casey Koslowski bought the resort. Casey’s vision was to create a gay resort with all the personal touches of an intimate B&B [and] the panache and services of a fine resort. Today, we are the largest gay resort in Ft. Lauderdale, and the only one offering a full-service Day Spa open seven days a week.

What should the gay traveler know about Ft. Lauderdale before visiting?
Visitors should keep in mind that Ft. Lauderdale is very spread out, and you absolutely will need a car to get around, although some of our great neighborhoods are very walkable once you get to them. The Wilton Manors neighborhood is the hub of the gay community, and offers a good concentration of bars, restaurants, and boutiques. The Las Olas area, our version of Rodeo Drive, is host to upscale boutiques, galleries, and some of the finest restaurants in South Florida. Ft. Lauderdale Beach is newly coming alive with the recent opening of the Westin Hotel and the W Hotel, joining the Atlantic Hotel and Ritz-Carlton. With these new additions have also come new restaurants and shops.

While Ft. Lauderdale is best known to gay travelers for our beach lifestyle, we also have a terrific arts scene, bolstered largely by the gay community. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Avenue. Ft. Lauderdale. Tel: 954-462-0222. www.browardcenter.org) features diverse performances in theatre, dance, and music. The collection of more than six thousand works at The Museum of Art Ft. Lauderdale (One East Las Olas Blvd. Ft. Lauderdale. Tel: 954-525-5500. www.moaflnsu.org) is international in scope, while strongly reflecting the creative expression of the cultures of South Florida and the Caribbean. I think the best thing about Ft. Lauderdale is how the gay community has become an integral component of all aspects of life here, from civic and government roles, to business, tourism, and naturally, the arts.

What are some hot picks for cool cocktails?
Here on Ft. Lauderdale Beach that honor goes to Whiskey Blue (401 N. Ft. Lauderdale Beach Blvd. Tel: 954-414-8300. www.gerberbars.com) at the new W Hotel. This is a popular upscale after-work cocktail scene in a memorable setting. The bar, both indoors and out, is an extension of the ocean, with ocean views and fire pits; you can even look up at the clear underside of the swimming pool! Or just gaze out at the beautiful colors of the Atlantic Ocean. In Wilton Manors, the bartenders at Georgie’s Alibi make mean martinis, which are 2-for-1 Monday through Friday, from 11 A.M. until 9 P.M.

Where do you send guests for a romantic dinner?
Ft. Lauderdale has dozens and dozens of great restaurants. I know I will offend several of my restaurateur friends by not mentioning them, but there simply isn’t room for everyone in one article. The Hi-Life Café (3000 N. Federal Hwy, Ft. Lauderdale. Tel: 954-563-1395. www.hilifecafe.com) is one of my favorite restaurants, especially given its history of being Ft. Lauderdale’s longest running gay owned/operated restaurant. Fans of Bravo’s Top Chef may remember Chef Carlos Fernandez from season two. Co-owner Chuck Smith handles the front of the house. They both make sure their patrons know just how special each and every one is to them. The dining rooms are intimate, low key, and evoke a very romantic ambiance. The menu offers comforting American cuisine, but always with a twist and always served in a most gracious manner.

Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi Bar (2389 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors. Tel: 954-565-7577. www.galangarestaurant.com) in Wilton Manors, is owned and run by another gentleman that really understands hospitality, Eddi Mulyanto, and it offers fantastic Thai fusion cuisine and sushi. While the restaurant is large, it is broken up into tiny alcoves, both inside and outside, that provide patrons privacy and intimacy along with great food and great service.

One last tiny gem tucked away off Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Ft. Lauderdale is Las Olas Café (922 E. Las Olas Blvd. Tel: 954-524-4300. www.lasolascafe.com). Basically, just a small courtyard, this establishment allows one to imagine being in Provence, both from the menu and the décor. Exposed aged brick walls and floors transport one to the hilltops of southern France. Service is elegant, yet comfortably relaxed. The food, well, all one needs to do upon walking into the restaurant is look at the faces of the patrons and see the looks of satisfaction.

What are your suggestions for travelers who like to keep fit?
Guests at The Grand Resort and Spa can take advantage of our fitness center, which is equipped with free weights and cardio equipment. Visitors looking for larger fitness clubs have several nearby options, including Gold’s Gym, Bally Total Fitness Centers, and LA Fitness. A well-equipped neighborhood gym with great day and weekly rates is Downtown Gym and Fitness Center (713 E. Broward Blvd. Ft. Lauderdale. Tel: 954-462-7669. www.downtowngym.net). Running on the beach, biking the many miles of bike routes, and swimming, all round out a good menu of fitness options while on holiday.

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