By Douglas Hanks
When showing off refurbished rooms, most hotel managers brag about luxe offerings: designer wall coverings, imported espresso machines, black granite tubs.
The Clevelander’s Mike Palma has other priorities.
”The beds are jump-proof. They’re bolted down,” Palma boasted during a recent tour of South Beach’s top party hotel, as construction workers finished 22 months of renovations.
With three decades of trashed rooms and late-night shenanigans as a guide, Clevelander executives think they have learned from their guests’ fun-loving mistakes. Owners spent nearly $40 million to renovate the 1938 property, which reopens Thursday, April 30 as a fancier and far more defensive hotel.
Among the upgrades:
• Ceiling lights to replace bedside lamps, which too many guests were knocking over and breaking.
• Chest-high balcony rails built taller than required by the city code. The 25-foot drop to the hotel’s pool was seen as too tempting for some Clevelander guests.
• A silicon seal beneath beds to keep liquids out.
”If you puke on the floor,” Palma explained, “it won’t go under the bed.”
• A new rooftop sun deck, with canopy-covered day beds and a pool where guests can be drenched by a waterfall fountain.
• Bathrooms now have oversized shower heads and sliding doors to make the boxy rooms seem larger. New terrazzo sinks were built strong enough to handle the weight of an adult and prevent sinks from being ripped off the wall
”Sit on it,” Marketing Manager Francine Madera told a 220-pound visitor inspecting a room. The sink held.
• Twice as many deep fryers in the hotel kitchen and a cooler with room for 22 kegs — four times as many as before. The extra brew will flow to the outside bars, which will serve draft beer for the first time.
For sure, the Clevelander followed the traditional path of most hotel renovations: Pump money into the property to attract wealthier vacationers.
Travel sites used to list $90 rooms at the Clevelander, but the new rate schedule starts at $179.
The biggest work went into a new wing of rooms overlooking Ocean Drive, including five ”Rock Star” suites starting at $400 a night. The hotel’s website boasts of Egyptian-cotton sheets and plasma television sets.
But even upgraded, the 60-room Clevelander embraces its chug-a-lug reputation.
Guests will receive complimentary rum runners at check-in. They’ll also have the option of paying $90 for a new 120-ounce cocktail served in what appears to be a small vase.
Publicity materials promise a “guaranteed, unforgettable, nonstop party.”
”We’re not going to hide what we are,” Palma said. “We’re wild and we’re fun. We built it durable.”
Regulars will notice the biggest change in the lobby, which used to house a sports bar. In winning approval from the Miami Beach historic board, Clevelander executives agreed to restore the lobby to its original Art Deco look. That meant no sports bar, which moved to the first floor of the new wing. The second floor holds the Clevelander’s first real attempt at a nightclub, taking the spot where a gym used to be.
”If you’re coming just to relax and rejuvenate,” said Madera, the marketing manager, “this is not your place.”