Wyndham hotel to be built at old Pilot House bar site

Miami Springs city leaders approved a new Wyndham hotel at the site of the old Pilot House bar, which has been closed since the state revoked its alcohol license eight years ago after agents disbanded what they say was a drug and gambling ring.

The site, 4909 N.W. 36th St., was razed last week to make way for a 90,080-square-foot Wyndham hotel.

The plans show a variety of “green spaces” and a lounge that will pay homage to the city’s aviation history. The bar atop the hotel will be called “The Pilot House” and the bar’s original neon sign has been salvaged and will be displayed.

The original “Pilot House” had a troubled past and a contentious relationship with the city. In 1982, the city approved placing barriers to create a cul-de-sac and curtail access to the bar.

A 1982 Miami Herald story states the former owner, Gene Kesser, opposed the measure calling it a “hardship.”

"The biggest problem we are going to have is congestion,” he said.

Business was brisk at the Pilot House in its heyday, when it was popular with Eastern Airlines employees from Miami International Airport, across the street. That is, until 1989, when mass layoffs hit Eastern. Fights often broke out at the bar between union and nonunion employees and the bar’s customer base quickly dwindled.

The Pilot House took its biggest dive when police swooped in in 2006, tipped that drugs were being sold and an illegal gambling ring was flourishing. A 2006 Miami Herald story details how police arrested two people at the bar, charging them with cocaine possession with the intent to sell the cocaine.

Shortly thereafter, the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which enforces laws and regulations of the alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries, revoked the bar's alcohol license and it closed.

“The city welcomes the new hotels coming to the city since this is in accordance with our goals to keep increasing the commercial tax base,” said Finance Director William Alonso, who starts his new position on Aug. 1 as city manager.