The bar at the Lords Hotel on Collins Avenue near 11th Street is done up in gaudy gold, a campy tribute to the women of Miami. Many of the guest rooms feature huge portraits of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra drag. There’s a giant polar bear towering over the lobby, but he’s hardly scary. How can he be when he’s striking a pose with a big vinyl beach ball between his paws?
Since the Lords opened in late November (formerly the Nash Hotel,) the media has frothed about it being the first gay boutique hotel chain in America — although there is only the one property so far. And the Lords is hardly the first hotel to cater to a gay clientele. Not nationally, and not in South Florida.
But it used to be that mention of a gay hotel immediately conjured images of — well, never mind the images. Never mind the sad décor, the sorry bar scenes, the seedy goings-on.
“Even some of my friends said, ‘Oh my God, this place is actually nice,’” says Brian Gorman, the Lords’ always-chipper founder, who these days is focused on expanding the brand. He says the second Lords will open either in New York or San Francisco and that he’s close to signing deals on both coasts.
“Some people said, ‘We didn’t want to book here because honestly, we didn’t really know what to expect.’ They wanted to see rooms first,” says Gorman, 35, who is committed to getting gays and lesbians to change the tape on what it means to stay in a gay hotel. “When we were opening, some people asked, ‘Is this place going to be clothing-optional?’ No, it’s clothing. And try to make it cute clothing.’’
When you meet up with Gorman in the gold mirrored-mosaic bar, he’s sporting white shorts and a yellow-and-white striped tank under a light jacket and navy espadrilles.
What does his style say?
“Beach. Of course, there’s day Beach and evening Beach, though in the summer, I’ll often just wear a long-sleeved shirt and shorts at night. We’re different from that old gay concept. We’re very bright and open and centrally located. We’re not one of those gay places that puts a hedge around the property so no one can see what we’re up to.
“Our design team at first talked about doing what a lot of boutique hotels do, which is create a really sexy, dark environment. But even in a gay hospital, there would be sex. We didn’t need to push sex. What we needed to push was a sense of luxury and fun and connection.’’
The place has a hip, boutique-y vibe, but rooms, featuring bright yellow and aquamarine colors along with a Mid-Century- Modern-meets-High-Kitsch décor, run an unpretentious $99-$149 in the summer and usually stay under $200 even in season.
“This is a hotel for gay people, so the sheets still have to be Frette,’’ Gorman jokes.
But as the gay community continues making gains in the civil rights arena, with New York giddy over gay marriage and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell finally starting to fade into the less-enlightened past, do “gay ghetto” components like gay cruises, gay coffeehouses, gay gyms and gay hotels delay full membership in the broader world?
In recent years, many large upscale hotel chains have implemented “gay-friendly” policies, training check-in clerks not to ask thoughtless questions about whether the two men standing at the front desk really meant to book a room with a king instead of two doubles.