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Original Broadcast in
November 2002, following The South
Florida Sun-Sentinel Story & updated progress at 10th Anniversary (below)
for gays rejuvenate once-neglected Dania Beach
By Georgia East Staff Writer Posted November 4 2002
DANIA BEACH -- In an area once plagued by drugs and prostitutes, rainbow
flags flap in the wind.
Below the colorful banners, a Canadian couple soaks up the sun beside the
pool, a small dog sits quietly on a lounge chair and a cleaning crew slips
into apartment-style suites.
It's just what Joe Van Eron had in mind when he envisioned building a
guest house village in Dania Beach that would cater to gays.
In the past five years, Van Eron and his business partner, Jack Zimmerman,
have carved out a successful niche in the gay resort market by offering
extended-stay resorts. After opening two rentals across the street from each
other on Southwest Second Avenue near Sheridan Street, the men are getting
ready to open a third on the same street, this time targeting the lesbian
Their venture taps into the billion-dollar gay tourist industry in Broward
County, and it's fueling the rejuvenation of a Dania Beach neighborhood that
had been neglected.
"It's nice to find a place where we can be comfortable among ourselves," Van
Eron says. "For the first time in my life, I'm in the right place at the
Van Eron's pioneer spirit led him to Dania Beach a little over five years ago.
After running a successful special-events company in New York & New Jersey, he moved to
Florida to start something in real estate. Zimmerman relocated with him.
Van Eron saw past the decrepit condition of the apartment building he chose
for his flagship motel, Liberty Suites. Residents had deemed the building at
1501 SW Second Ave. an eyesore, but Van Eron saw potential.
"Gays love being pioneers," Van Eron said. "Gays are always on the cutting
edge. Look at Victoria Park, Poinsettia Heights and Wilton Manors."
Van Eron and Zimmerman paid $314,000 for the two-story, yellow building,
which they renovated inside and out. In five years, the property's value has
Three years later, they purchased their second property, a couple of
duplexes across the street, for $225,000 and converted it into Liberty
Garden Suites. That property's value has risen, as well.
Together, both resorts offer about 18 rental units, which cost $250 to $795
per week. Zimmerman said the suites usually operate at 90 percent occupancy,
which dips into the 80s during the off-season. They draw at least 60 percent
of their business from the Internet.
At least six patrons have bought homes in the community that surrounds the
resort, boosting the number of gay residents there.
Liberty Suites has become a hub for gay homeowners in the area. The resort
owners have dinners around Thanksgiving, a pool party on Independence Day
and several fund-raisers for local AIDS organizations throughout the year.
"This place has so much to offer," Van Eron said. "It's a wonderful
location, with the charm of Key West."
The small, southwest Dania Beach neighborhood is a racially diverse enclave with
small streets, alleyways and mostly single-family homes and duplexes. In
1999, the median household income at owner-occupied homes was $26,000, below
the median household income for the city, which was $36,000, according to
Gays are in the minority in this neighborhood, but small rainbow flags above
some mailboxes mark their presence. Some gay residents say what they
appreciate most is that newcomers and the longtime residents live together
with hardly any tension.
Times have changed in this neighborhood, which has been making a gradual
turnaround. For years, this section of southwest Dania Beach, tucked a few blocks
behind Federal Highway and on the boundary with Hollywood, was known for its
drug and prostitution problems.
"It was one of our first target areas back in the '90s," said City Manager
Ivan Pato, a former Broward sheriff's deputy. "Not only does it feel better,
which is important because that's how perception develops, but it looks
Dennis Radar and his partner had no idea where Dania Beach was before they
heard about Liberty Suites. The couple stayed there after relocating to
Florida from Arizona two years ago.
After searching the county for a house, they decided on a duplex in the
southwest neighborhood that needed renovating.
"We saw an opportunity, since it's an up-and-coming area," Radar said. "This
was kind of a run-down neighborhood, and it's still kind of a work in
Radar likes that his new neighborhood isn't exclusively gay or straight.
"Here, it's people kind of just blending in," Radar said. "I've lived in a
gay ghetto, a neighborhood completely saturated with us, and I didn't want
to do that again."
Although not known as a gay destination, Dania Beach, Broward County's
oldest city, has long had a strong network of gay businesses.
The lesbian bar Partners opened on East Dania Beach Boulevard more than a
decade ago. The popular gay nightclub Copa is also in Dania, and low-key gay
hangouts are scattered throughout town.
"We're slowly becoming another Wilton Manors," said Ralph Denicola, a gay
man who owns Uncle Ralph's Paws 'N' Claws, a pet-grooming business in Dania
Those who study the gay market say it's no surprise that cities like Dania
Beach and Hollywood are attracting more gay residents and tourists.
Fort Lauderdale's popularity as a gay destination is carrying over into
nearby cities, said Ian Drew, news editor with The Express, a gay newspaper
based in Wilton Manors.
"It's incredible the gay mecca that Fort Lauderdale has become," Drew said.
"If you look at Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, you see it's going to
overflow. And everyone wants to be close to the center."
While the tourist market is steady for gay men, hotel proprietors say the
lesbian resort market is difficult to tap. Attracting lesbian clientele is
harder because women tend to stay at mainstream hotels, but gay men usually
search for exclusive spots.
Van Eron and Zimmerman know a lesbian resort is a bold move, but they think
there is a need for it. For years, Van Eron said, women have been asking for
Van Eron is so enthusiastic about the project that he joked he might move
his 12-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty draped in a rainbow dress from
beside the pool at Liberty Suites to the pool at Lady Liberty.
"I've beaten all the odds," said Van Eron, who is hoping to open the new
extended-stay resort on Thanksgiving. "I don't just dream, I demonstrate."
Georgia East can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-385-7921.
Contact: Joseph Van Eron, Tel: (954) 383-5548
CELEBRATES TENTH ANNIVERSARY
Dania Beach Innkeepers
Become Community Legends
DANIA BEACH, Florida – June 26, 2008 –
As the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches, Liberty Suites proprietors
Joe Van Eron and Jack Zimmerman plan on celebrating the success of their
award winning Superior Small Lodging which caters to the Gay & Lesbian
market, and the impact and changes that they personally have achieved in
their community. Their pioneering spirit has helped to transform and
redevelop their Dania Beach Neighborhood and lead the way for tourism
success for Dania Beach, Broward County and the State of Florida. According
to Van Eron, “Our first ten years were a remarkable journey, and we are very
proud to have had the opportunity to influence so many changes and to have
created a very special Guesthouse Hotel that continues to accommodate the
needs of local, national and international clientele year after year”.
Among their many accomplishments was the formation of the Triangle Village
Civic Association which is dedicated to the redevelopment of their
neighborhood, including bringing both tourism related businesses to the area
and creating a village atmosphere where locals and visitors can live, work,
play and stay. Dania Beach Vice Mayor Anne Castro says proudly, “Their
efforts have resulted in the funding of over $500,000 in improvements to the
triangle area including new sidewalks, traffic calming, street improvements,
and solar lighting”, and “Joe & Jack have worked tirelessly set an example
for redevelopment while remaining great corporate citizens and the greatest
cheerleaders for Dania Beach, and its diverse population”
Both Liberty Suites and Joe Van Eron have been recognized with numerous
awards, including the “Award for Excellence” from the Florida Superior Small
Lodging Association on 3 different occasions, and recently bestowed the
“2007 Pink Choice Award” which establishes Liberty Suites among the best Gay
& Lesbian accommodations in Greater Fort Lauderdale. In addition to serving
as the founding chair of the Visit Florida GLBT Task Force, Joe has always
championed the cause for diversity, and continues to be an activist for
issues of great importance to the GLBT Community. “Saving our communities
and businesses from the ever changing challenges is my passion”, and when
folks ask why, Joe chimes “I have been fortunate to possess the ability to
influence change which has been the driving force to make our world a little
The Liberty Suites story continues to be a beacon of light for leadership,
business success and community pride, with a passion that these two
gentlemen so generously share. “After 30 years as partners it continues to
amaze me with what Joe will come up with next” says Jack….” We both love our
community and appreciate its continued friendship and support”
October 21, 2007
Come Out Against Naugle
City hopes to attract visitors, residents with pro-diversity
DANIA BEACH, FL -- Dania Beach, a neighbor city of Fort
Lauderdale, is hoping to take advantage of anti-gay remarks by Fort
Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle to attract tourists and new residents.
Leading the effort is gay activist Joe Van Eron, founder and
president of theDania Beach Tourism Council,
who recently persuaded commissioners to pass a resolution stating
Dania Beach "prides itself on being a community that is inclusive
and welcoming, rather than divisive," Sun-Sentinel reports.
Joe Van Eron, president of the Dania Beach Tourism Council, talks about
diversity in the city and that Dania Beach is making it comfortable
for all peoples---- gays and minorities--- to visit, live and work.
His hotel, The Liberty Suites, which he started 10 years ago, caters
strictly to gay and lesbian travelers. He recently got the city to
pass a resolution making it clear Dania Beach embraces diversity.
The resolution is in response to Mayor Jim Naugle's diatribe against
gays in Fort Lauderdale. (Sun-Sentinel/Mike
October 12, 2007)
While Broward County, Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors already
have taken a similar position, Van Eron said Dania Beach couldn't
remain silent because it has been a steady destination for gay
travelers and up to 20 percent of the city's residents are
Roger Handevidt, chairman of the Rainbow Alliance, which represents
a group of gay-owned and gay-friendly hotels in the county, called
the city's resolution "a very enlightened move."
While it may not necessarily sway visitors to make Dania Beach their
primary destination, Handevidt told Sun-Sentinel, "what it will do
is that there won't be a red flag saying: We don't want you."
Van Eron, 58, said Naugle gave a "black eye" to Broward and its
accusing gays of having sex in
said some African-American groups have told him they had second
thoughts about holding family reunions in the county because they
interpreted Naugle's remarks as a civil issue.
The city, which was Broward's
first municipality, was not always perceived as so tolerant. In the
former Tomato Capital of the World, blacks and whites used to be
separated by a railroad track, with each group restricted to its own
facilities. "It's moving; it's doing great," said Jimmie Peterman,
64, who was born and raised in the city. Still, "some improvements
can be made,".
"Hate is hate and hate doesn't have any color," Van Eron said.
The resolution, he added, "is not just about visitors. We want
people to come visit, live and work in
Dania Beach."Commissioner Anne Castro calls
the resolution "a business decision" in line with efforts to turn
the city into a tourist destination for people from all social and
economic backgrounds. Business owners embrace the city's new
diversity push. "It's great Dania Beach is doing this," said Clare
Vickery, owner of the downtown Grace Café & Gallery. Through its Web
the tourism council is promoting the antiques district, Dania
Jai-Alai, the pier's restaurant, Bass Pro Shops and the
International Game Fish Association's Hall of Fame Museum, among
Van Eron also is trying to preserve certain buildings of historical
significance, such as the old Negro Chamber of Commerce, the former
tomato packing house building, Bibleway Church and the Church of God
property, all in the city's northwest section. "I do believe they
need to be preserved," said Vice Mayor Albert Jones, 61, who said he
used to work part-time at the Negro Movie Theater.
Neighbors say Van Eron's
efforts are helping them as well.
Teddy Bohanan, former president of the Dania Beach Heights Civic
Association, said Van Eron worked with city officials to weed out
crime in the neighborhood west of Federal Highway between Sheridan
Street and Stirling Road.
Before Van Eron opened his hotel, the area was a hangout for drug
dealers and prostitutes. "We've become a lot better city," Bohanan
said. "People are trying to do what's best."
Eron, owner of Liberty Suites,
a gay hotel in Dania Beach, has been
appointed chair of Visit Florida’s new
GLBT Task Force.
SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 2006
Joe Van Eron Named Chair
Visit Florida GLBT Tourism
State tourism board
to increase gay marketing Visit Florida approves
task force to study how to grab gay and lesbian
The board of directors of Visit Florida, a
statewide tourism organization, has approved the
creation of a task force to study strategies for
attracting more of the gay and lesbian travel
The board voted June 15 to create the Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Task Force. Joe
Van Eron, owner of Liberty Suites, a gay hotel
in Dania Beach, has been appointed chair of the
“It’s a major step forward for gay tourism in
Florida,” Van Eron said. “The board did not make
a lifestyle decision; it made a good business
Van Eron said the task force will be composed
of six to eight people representing various
segments of the tourism industry and regions of
The group will make recommendations on how to
best spend advertising dollars and promote the
state to gay tourists. There will be an emphasis
on international marketing efforts, Van Eron
No gay-specific ads
“We will be mapping out a three- to five-year
marketing plan,” Van Eron said.
Vanessa Welter, director of communications
for Visit Florida, said the organization spent
about $100,000 last year on gay marketing
efforts and will be looking at increasing that
“The task force will examine what we’re
currently doing and what we need to do to
attract the gay market,” Welter said.
Visit Florida has similar marketing programs
for African-American and Hispanic tourists,
Welter noted that gay and lesbian tourism is
a $50 billion market worldwide, according to a
2000 study by Tourism Intelligence
International. The gay market accounts for 10
percent of the total U.S. travel market, Welter
The 3,500 members of Visit Florida include
large hotel chains, smaller properties,
restaurants, Walt Disney World and numerous
other types of hospitality businesses, Welter
said. The organization is a public-private
partnership that receives about $24 million in
public funds from the Florida Commission on
Tourism, which is appointed by the governor.
Only about $12 million of Visit Florida’s
budget is earmarked for advertising, so the
organization has to be thrifty in how it spends
its money, Welter said.
For example, it runs only generic ads in the
various markets, including the gay market,
Welter said. It’s most recent advertising in the
gay market included an ad in Passport, a gay
travel magazine. She said the organization
probably couldn’t afford to run gay-specific
Statewide approach is rare
A statewide approach to gay tourism marketing
makes good business sense for a state like
Florida, said Jerry McHugh, manager of market
research for Community Marketing, a gay travel
research company based in San Francisco.
“It makes a lot of sense to me that Florida
would market statewide because so many gay
tourists visit more than one city during trips
to Florida,” McHugh said.
He noted, for example, that it’s not unusual
for gay tourists to combine a trip to Key West
with a visit to Fort Lauderdale or Miami Beach.
And visitors to Orlando, where Gay Days takes
place each year at Disney World, often venture
over to St. Petersburg, where there is a popular
But he pointed out that statewide marketing
to the gay market is rare. Most of the gay
travel marketing in the United States is done by
city tourist boards, he said. Cities with
significant gay travel marketing programs
include New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, San
Francisco, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, McHugh
He added that Canada has had a lot of success
with national marketing efforts aimed at gay
tourists. In fact, he said Canada’s gay tourist
boom in recent years has been partly the result
of the gay marriage issue, but also the result
of aggressive marketing efforts by Canada’s
national tourism commission.
“It’s been incredibly important for Canada,”
he said. “Our research showed that more gay and
lesbian tourists visited Canada last year than
Announces New Board of Directors Officers
Fla. (June 26, 2006) - VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official
source for travel planning, announced the
appointment of its new officers and committee
chairpersons. Donna Ross and Nicki Grossman,
were named as Chair and Chair-elect of its Board
of Directors for the 2006-07 Fiscal Year, which
begins July 1. The official announcements were
made during VISIT FLORIDA’s quarterly Board of
Directors and Florida Commission on Tourism
meeting held in Fort Myers, at the Sanibel
Resort and Spa.
Finally, in response to the growing niche
market of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender
travelers whospend in excess of $76.5
billion dollars per year on vacations, VISIT
FLORIDA has created a new task force to create
strategies to better reach this emerging market.
Joe Van Eron, President of the Dania Beach
Tourism Council and proprietor of Liberty Suites
in Dania Beach, has been selected to chair this
task force for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.
resort honored by Pink Choice Awards
PROVINCETOWN, MA. - Pink Choice (www.pinkchoice.com), a trusted website for gay and
lesbian travelers seeking information about
accommodations worldwide, is pleased to announce
the winners of its 2007 Pink Choice Awards. The
Pink Choice Awards highlight gay friendly
properties that earned the highest traveler
ratings in their price range for a second year
in 2008. Ratings take into consideration
essential categories such as guests' first
impressions, check-in, staff, and overall value.
"Pink Choice Award winners deserve the highest
praise, having captured the loyalty of so many
of our members," said Trevor Pinker, co-founder
of Pink Choice. "Gay and lesbian travelers
today expect more from their hosts, and our
winners have answered the call by providing
welcoming, relaxing safe havens for guests from
around the world."
Stephen Mascilo, co-founder of Pink Choice,
added, "Celebrating our second annual Pink
Choice Awards, we are thrilled to see that while
destinations well known to gay travelers remain
highly ranked, new regions are also attracting
visitors by providing outstanding service and
amenities. We enthusiastically congratulate
both our repeat winners and those properties
receiving their first Award!" The winner is: $$
Price Brand Liberty
Suites, Fort Lauderdale
About Pink Choice
Pink Choice (www.pinkchoice.com) is the most
reliable, honest and trusted web site for gay
and lesbian travelers seeking information and
reviews about accommodations worldwide. Reviews
and background on the website help gay and
lesbian travelers choose the type of
accommodation that meets their needs. Armed
with information, they can be confident that
when they arrive at their destination there will
be no surprises and they will be made to feel
welcome. Since launching in 2006, Pink Choice
has expanded to include over 200 global
destinations covering 1000 hotels, inns and
guesthouses. The site has over 4,000 registered
GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE – May 14, 2004
– Small in size, unique in style, special in
service, and big on value are just some of the
characteristics of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s
Superior Small Lodgings. Three distinct small
lodgings were honored at the Annual Superior
Small Lodging Awards Gala, held Friday, May 14
at the Broward County Convention Center. Each
Superior Small Lodging is reviewed on a yearly
basis by an independent inspector.
The 2004 Award of Excellence for Best Outdoor
Renovation was presented to Joseph Van Eron &
Jack Zimmerman of Liberty Suites in Dania
Beach. The original 1950's era house and 1930's
cottage received a major transformation,
including new roofs & gutters, plumbing,
electrical, lighting, structural, painting &
windows. The garage was converted into a one
bedroom Carriage House with a private
patio, a rear porch into a canopied guest lounge
& a breakfast room with outdoor seating. The
entire property was excavated, privacy fenced,
patios installed and landscaped to achieve
the sense of a privately enclosed tropical
For more information about Greater Fort
Lauderdale and free copies of the destination's
new Superior Small Lodging guide contact
the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention &
Visitors Bureau, 1850 Eller Drive, Suite 303,
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316; call 800-22-SUNNY
(U.S. and Canada); website at www.sunny.org.
Superior Small Lodging
Proprietor Goes Above and Beyond in 2006
BOCA RATON, Florida – December 15, 2006
– What does it mean to go Above and Beyond?
Well meet Joe. Joseph Van Eron that is.
Small Lodging announced the winner of the 2006
Above and Beyond Award during its annual meeting
at Lynn University, Boca Raton. The honoree was
Joseph Van Eron, Proprietor, Liberty Suites,
Dania Beach, and Founder & President of the
Dania Beach Tourism Council.
“This is our opportunity to recognize the person
who really stood out and exhibited the shared
values of this organization – quality operations
and personalized service,” said Nancy Shaller,
outgoing Chair, Florida Superior Small Lodging.
“Joe was it for us in 2006. He is very much
service that’s unexpected, extraordinary,
unnecessary, surprising, caring and perhaps even
entertaining and outrageous. Whatever it took,
Joe went above and beyond the call of duty,”
The Superior Small Lodging Above and Beyond
Award is designed to recognize and reward
individuals who, consistent with the
association’s goals, have gone above and beyond
their formal, identified innkeeping duties to
community involvement and leadership. The
criteria for the are to: perform in a manner
which reflects Superior Small Lodging’s
requirement of excellence in service with
compassion, vision, and integrity; and recognize
and acknowledge that individual attitudes and
actions affect the tourism industry as a whole.
In industry circles, Van Eron has a reputation
for his thoughtful and collaborative approach in
helping cross-functional teams work effectively
“Superior Small Lodging’s Above and Beyond Award
recognizes Joe for his overall effort on
marketing Florida’s tourism,” said Catherine
Arthur, Executive Director, Superior Small
Lodging Association. “Joe’s personal
dedication is outstanding by every measure. He
is proprietor of a Superior Small Lodging in
Dania Beach. He significantly contributes as
Chair to Visit Florida’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
and Transgender (GLBT) Task Force and how it
operates within a mainstream market. He
proactively identifies issues before lodging
operators and implements solutions that are key
to a positive outcome. He supports a series of
Broward County marketing activities resulting in
maximum impact to travelers and a high quality
delivery to visitors. In all, Joe’s efforts
offer real business value in the professional
circles he’s affiliated with and certainly from
a continuous improvement/operations standpoint,”
“He makes certain all
players understand the work he is doing and how
they may be impacted,” says Paul Faulise, former
Chair of Superior Small Lodging. “Thanks to Joe
for his exceptional work in 2006, supporting
Superior Small Lodging and his fantastic consultative attitude. I think we all like
people who don’t just do things right - but do
the right things, and in our business it's often
a struggle to know what's right,” stated
Hotelier Receives F.S.S.L.A. 2007 Dermody Award
FLORIDA - December 3, 2007….At
the conclusion of the 2007 Superior Small
Lodging Conference at the Broward County
Convention Center, the
Florida Superior Small Lodging Association
presented the 2007 Dermody Award,“FOR EXCELLENCE
IN LEGISLATIVE ACTION”, to Joseph Van
Eron, Proprietor, Liberty Suites, Dania Beach,
Founder & President of the Dania Beach Tourism
Council, and FSSLA Board member…recognizing Van
Eron’s tireless efforts for the survival of
Florida’s Small Hotels during the 2007
Dania Beach Hotel Receives F.S.S.L.A. 2008 White
FLORIDA - December 01, 2008….At
the conclusion of the 2008 Superior Small
Lodging Conference at Bellevue Biltmore Resort,
the Florida Superior Small Lodging Association
presented the 2008 Donal A. Dermody White Glove
Award, “FOR SUPERIOR HOUSEKEEPING”, to
Liberty Apartment & Garden Suites in Dania
Beach. This prestigious award is reserved for
those few properties that have scored a perfect
100% rating for the SSL annual Quality Assurance
Program, which insures Florida travelers the
highest possible standards for housekeeping and
maintenance which are maintained on a
professional quality level.
Rising property taxes and insurance
costs are affecting businesses across Broward County, with
small hotels and inns taking an especially hard hit. BY JENNIFER LEBOVICH
Business has been brisk at Liberty Suites in Dania Beach.
But despite a record number of visitors to the 18-unit hotel
this year, the owner predicts that when all his bills are paid
he'll barely break even.
''We are seriously thinking about making this our last
season,'' said Joe Van Eron, who has owned the hotel with his
life partner, Jack Zimmerman, for nine years. ``This is our
livelihood. We built our retirement on this. We're getting to
the point where we're constantly working for nothing.''
For years, rising property values and tempting offers from
developers have led dozens of small, relatively inexpensive
Broward hotels to close, making way for new high-rise hotels and
Some have hung on. But now, rising property taxes and
insurance costs, coupled with higher electric bills, are cutting
into profits and leaving many with little choice but to fold.
Many of the small hotels that line U.S. 1 or A1A through
Broward County and sit in clusters near Hollywood and Fort
Lauderdale beaches offer quirky slices of Old Florida. Some
cater to Canadians or Northeasterners; others, such as Liberty
Suites, market themselves to gay vacationers. Rates are usually
lower than at large hotels, and many have kitchens that attract
people for longer stays.
This year, Van Eron had to raise rates about $50 a week to
help cover rising costs. He has seen drastic increases in nearly
every bill he pays.
NO CAP ON TAXES
Unlike for owner-occupied homes, there is no cap on how much
taxable value of business structures can increase each year. So
in the past five years, Van Eron's property taxes have increased
by about $12,000.
Insurance costs have gone up by roughly $9,000.
''You get to the point where you say how much can you add to
a room rate and still be competitive?'' Van Eron said. ``You
have to absorb it.''
Since 2000, about 50 hotels have closed in Broward County,
said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale
Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The bulk of them were smaller hotels.
Despite some smaller hotels going out of business, there are
1,500 more hotel rooms in Broward County than in 2000.
BIG GUYS GET BIGGER
''The face of our business has changed,'' Grossman said.
``Instead of having a larger number of small properties, we have
more rooms in the larger hotels.''
There are about 200 small hotels -- with 50 rooms or fewer --
in Broward County today.
''What we've seen is the hotels that have gone out of
business have gone out because they sold their property to a
hotel developer or condominium developer,'' Grossman said.
``Some people in business in smaller hotel properties are making
the decision they'd rather cash in now.''
CONDOS MOVING IN
To the south, Sunny Isles Beach has undergone even greater
change. Many of the eye-catching, low-rise beachfront motels in
the northeast Miami-Dade County resort town have been demolished
to make room for high-rise condominiums. Along the Collins
Avenue strip, condominium construction was too lucrative to pass
Many of the small innkeepers who remain pride themselves on
unique properties and service.
Mahogany furniture and trinkets from the Keys welcome
visitors at the Ernest Hemingway suite at Estoril Paradise Inn.
''There's absolutely personalized service,'' said John
Ambrosio, who with wife Aileen runs the 16-room inn and the
neighboring four-unit Ambrosio's Inn. They know the guests by
name, and many come back year after year to the hotel, whose
rooms sport a variety of interiors.
''It's the uniqueness, something that's different from
everyone else,'' said Ambrosio, who is on the board of the
Florida Superior Small Lodging, a trade organization.
Members' big concerns, he said, are loss of business from the
hurricanes of the last two years and increasing property taxes
and insurance costs.
''I think we're all trying to stay and do the best we can,''
said Ambrosio, who saw taxes on his buildings rise 40 percent
and 200 percent over the past couple of years. He added $5 to
$10 a night to the room charge to help offset the added
expenses. ``If we sell, what else will we do? They're in it for
the long run trying to do the best they can to make the business
survive before selling. I think pretty much that's most of us.''
Small hotel owners have, like many in Broward, come to appeal
their property tax bills. But Bob Wolfe, a spokesman for the
property appraiser's office, said there is often little the
office can do. As land surrounding these properties is
developed, the values of the property rises.
''If right next door, land is selling for prices we're
assessing it at, it's tough to play with those numbers,'' Wolfe
said. ``Our job is to report market values. I know that puts
people under the gun who run a small motel.''
Wolfe pointed to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, where a number of
small hotels along A1A have been razed, with condominiums
planned in their place.
When Donna Boucher and her husband Dwayne got the tax bill
for their 11-unit Manta Ray Inn they had a tough decision to
''This year when we got tax bills we either had to close the
doors or raise the rates by 10 percent, and that doesn't cover
it,'' said Boucher, who reports a property tax hike of 102
percent over last year. ``You can't cut down on quality of
DEMAND IS THERE
Running the beachside inn is a 24-hour job. She said she
hasn't had trouble attracting people to the hotel.
''People want a place with a kitchen, a little more unique,
where they can feed their kids breakfast and lunch and go on the
Broadwalk for dinner,'' Boucher said. ``Hollywood has that.
Unfortunately, it's just getting too expensive. The customers
are there, but we just can't make ends meet.''
The two came from Ontario about 15 years ago and bought the
inn overlooking the Hollywood Beach.
''We love it here, but taxes are going to force us out of
business eventually,'' Boucher said. ``We cannot pass a 102
percent increase onto customers.''