Lords South Beach, which has recently opened softly in Miami, Fla., is the first gay hotel brand in the country. ( The grand opening is Dec. 29. ) Lords is situated in the heart of South Beach on Collins Avenue near trendy restaurants, clubs, bars, shopping and beaches, such as Miami's famed gay beach at 12th Street. The hotel has 54 rooms, three plunge pools and a variety of amenities, including the Cha Cha Rooster Restaurant and Bar.
Windy City Times talked with founder Brian Gorman about this new and unique visitation spot.
Windy City Times: Let's talk about you a little. What is your background in real estate?
Brian Gorman: I grew up in and around hotel spaces. My father has an architectural and interior-design firm that focuses on four- and five-star properties around the world; it's called BBG-BBGM. He was part of the company when I was about 8 or 9 years old, so anytime there was a day off I would go to work with my dad and be locked in a hotel room while he toured the site with the clients, developers and construction workers. [ Laughs ] So that was basically how I grew up.
I then worked with BBG for many years, doing business development as well as retail management. I then worked for a real-estate branding and marketing firm [ SHVO ] that focused on creating compelling stories for residential development; I signed billions of dollars of new contracts while doing that. We would look at a particular location, and finding something that would be different. From a marketing standpoint, it was basically the fishing approachwhere you would cast out a net and see where it gets youor it's a harpoon, where you know exactly what you want and you go after it.
WCT: [ The second ] sounds more dangerous, actually.
Brian Gorman: [ Laughs ] But you know you're creating something people want.
WCT: Why was Miami chosen to launch Lords?
Brian Gorman: Miami has always been, to me, one of the sexiest, most fun, liberal beach environments I've ever been to. I remember, [ before ] Versace's murder, and it was this wild, fun, playful environment where you felt this sense of freedom and where you felt a sense of community with the gays here.
WCT: I was in Miami recently. The atmosphere was so laid-back.
Brian Gorman: That's the whole vibe of South Beach. It's about being yourself and being comfortable and finding glamour and sparkle.
WCT: The hotel has 54 rooms, three plunge pools...
Brian Gorman: ...and we have two bar spaces and an 85-seat restaurant. The food-and-beverage space is called the Cha Cha Rooster. The term "rooster" was originally used for wild, loose women in the 1920s. The whole concept revolved around women who wore too much jewelry and too little clothing, but at the same time were fabulous and glamourous. It was about not taking yourself too seriously, and feeling at home.
One of the things we're doing from a service standpoint is about disarming people, because so much of South Beach [ became ] "too cool for school"not smiling and not being hospitable. We really want to be much more about community and comfort. You don't need to be coolyou just need to be you.
WCT: Although going back to the whole "rooster" bit, I would've expected the term to be applied to men.
Brian Gorman: [ Laughs ] We don't mind gender-benders here.
WCT: So would it be more appropriate to say that Lords South Beach is "gay-friendly" as opposed to "gay?"
Brian Gorman: We're using the term "appropriately oriented." I definitely have my own orientation, and I definitely use that orientation to usher in the programs and experiences of the hotel. The location of the hotel is half a block from the gay beach; and we're right by the new gay and lesbian tourism center.
I really want it to be a place where everyone can feel like it's their ownand part of that [ involved ] giving back to the community. One of the things I'm most proud of is this program called Rooms That Matter, [ in which ] 10 percent of the rooms are assigned to a charity. So 10 percent of the revenue from those rooms is consistently going to gay and lesbian charities. We're also supporting the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the Point Foundation, Care Resource and the Aqua Foundation for Women.
WCT: How did you decide on those?
Brian Gorman: The first three that we looked at, I was trying to find something with an educational component; that's why we chose Hetrick-Martin, Point and Aqua. And Care Resource is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS support in southern Floridaand I wanted to give back to the community we were coming into.
WCT: At the hotel, you also have something called "Stay-Naked Dining," which I have the feeling you came up with on your own.
Brian Gorman: [ Laughs ] "Stay-Naked Dining" is something that everyone seems to gravitate to. I'm just trying not to take everything so seriously.
The hotel is definitely not clothing-optional, but we're, again, trying to be disarming.
WCT: You also have a concierge app. [ Note: The app can be downloaded to an iPad, iPhone, iPod or a Lords-loaned iPod. ]
Brian Gorman: We're not just trying to be appropriately oriented; we really want programs that target our people. With one of our partners, OUT magazine, we're developing a concierge application that focuses on the four areas that I think most gay travelers engage in: nightlife, culture, shopping and general tourism. So we have four different people who we thought excelled in these areas.
Joshua from New York talks about nightlife. Tim Goosens is an assistant curator; he tells what the cool galleries are, what the symphony is doing that night. Then we have Kristian Laliberte from New York, who tells the best places to shop. [ Lastly, ] I give general travel advice, so I'll talk about the Versace mansion. It's all connecting people to information that's particular to them.
WCT: With this economy being the way it is, how do you feel about opening a hotel now?
Brian Gorman: Our whole brand is about being approachable, so our room rate for the pre-opening is $99 per night. For the first opening of the season, the room rates will still be under $150 a night. So people can be a part of the community and still not break the bank. There's also free Wi-Fi throughout the property, and we have other promotions throughout the week such as Sunday brunch, which is called "Punch" and which is centered around punch bowls.
WCT: It seems like this place is going to constantly change as you come up with ideas.
Brian Gorman: Oh, yeah. Thank you, ADD. [ Laughs ]
WCT: What are your thoughts about the hotel expanding? Will there be a Lords New York or a Lords Chicago?
Brian Gorman: Definitely. We've already starting looking in West Hollywood, Calif., and we've been looking in New York for a while. West Hollywood, New York and Chicago are my first three choices.
For more about the hotel, see www.lordssouthbeach.com .