Get your electrostatic disinfectant sprayers ready: Hotels begin reopening in South Florida

Fontainebleau Miami Beach has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on preparations for reopening

TRD MIAMI /
Jun.June 01, 2020 06:00 PM
Ronny Finvarb, Sheldon Suga, and Phil Goldfarb

Ronny Finvarb, Sheldon Suga, and Phil Goldfarb

Guests staying at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach will now be greeted with a new reality: Plexiglas at check-in, a temperature check, 24/7 access to a doctor, and a kit with masks, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes.

The beachfront resort, Miami-Dade’s largest, is among hotels reopening on Monday, more than two months after government-ordered closures. Though hotels are allowed to operate again – and some remained open as essential lodgers – not all will reopen on Monday, as demand is limited to drive tourism for now.

Last week, the Fontainebleau opened the restaurants Hakkasan and Strip Steak by Michael Mina, as restaurants in the city could begin reopening May 27. It’s offering its Miami Spice menus early for dine-in or takeout.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

In addition to the black bowtie tiles the Fontainebleau is known for, the hotel will now also have dots on the floor spaced six feet apart indicating where guests can stand in parts of the lobby, said Philip Goldfarb, president and CEO of the hospitality division of Fontainebleau Development.

New cleaning and equipment measures.

New cleaning and equipment measures.

The resort is following its “ten commitments,” a list of guidelines it came up with that includes daily temperature checks, increased cleaning and sanitization protocols, Acrylic Plexiglas guards, touchfree devices in public restrooms, the mandatory use of masks and gloves for employees, and electrostatic disinfectant sprayers resembling something out of the movie “Ghostbusters,” Goldfarb said. Pool furniture is being spaced apart with pool ambassadors monitoring the property’s 11 pools. Per county guidelines, guests are required to wear masks in common areas such as lobbies.

All told, the hotel’s owner, Jeffrey Soffer’s Fontainebleau Development, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on preparing for the reopening and new cleaning and equipment measures.

“We want to be looked at for taking this extraordinarily seriously,” Goldfarb said.

The Fontainebleau is starting to bring back its more than 2,000 employees after more than two months of furloughs. The resort made headlines when its $975 million commercial mortgage-backed securities loan entered special servicing in April as Soffer seeks forbearance on payments.

Goldfarb said the hotel has made payments during the pandemic and “we expect to continue to pay it.”

Still, like other hotels in South Florida, the Fontainebleau is offering heavily discounted rates as it tries to woo locals into staycations – starting at about $250 per night. (Group bookings typically account for 50 percent of Fontainebleau’s business. Leisure travelers take up the other half.)

Though states like Florida have begun reopening, many are requiring out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine. In March, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered anyone traveling from the Northeast to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.

At some hotels, employees will be tested for Covid-19 before returning to work. Workers will also complete training programs. Some properties will seal the rooms after they are cleaned to ensure that guests checking in are the only people to have entered the rooms in between cleaning. Some properties are suspending valet parking – though the Fontainebleau is not.

Hotels are also back open in the Florida Keys.

Hawks Cay Resort, located halfway between Key Largo and Key West at mile marker 61, reopened on Monday, said Sheldon Suga, vice president and managing director.

The 60-acre property, with 177 rooms and 250 two- and three-bedroom villas, will also require face masks for workers and guests, and social distancing in public areas. Rooms will be cleaned and sealed prior to guest arrival. Daily housekeeping will not be available. At the resort’s restaurants, guests will access digital menus on their smartphones, and diners will be spaced apart.

Hotel staff will wear “approval to serve” stickers on their name badges indicating that they have had their temperatures checked and have answered a questionnaire about how they’re feeling and where they’ve been.

Hawks Cay had been closed since March 22, but it’s not the first time in recent years that it had to close abruptly. After damage from Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the hotel didn’t reopen until nearly a year later. It’s now bringing staff back who were furloughed during the mandated period of closure, Suga said.

Elevators will be limited to one guest or family, the hot tubs are temporarily closed, and valet parking is not offered at this time. Hand sanitizer is available at entrances, and there are now designated entrance and exit areas.

The property includes a full-service marina, six restaurants, a saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools, and a spa. “We think a lot of people will gravitate to outdoor seating” and other outdoor areas, Suga said.

Hotels and restaurants are now tasked with making their customers feel safe, experts say. In addition to spraying down hotel rooms, incorporating touchless technology and spacing out pool furniture, hoteliers may open up walls, increase ventilation, and add outdoor seating, said Adam Mopsick, CEO and co-founder of Amicon Management.

Anywhere that guests can congregate “creates a lot more pressure on [hotels] from an operational standpoint,” Mopsick said.

“All hotels, as they get designed now, are going to keep that spacing in mind,” he added. “The winners are going to be the ones that do the best job of getting in front of that.”

Hotel developer Ronny Finvarb of the Finvarb Group has two hotels now open in Miami Beach, the Residence Inn South Beach and the Courtyard Marriott South Beach, and plans to reopen his third on Friday, the Kimpton Hotel Palomar South Beach. All of Finvarb’s properties elsewhere in Florida and in Texas and Arizona are back open.

Kimpton

Kimpton

Finvarb is removing communal items, such as newspapers, shared iPads, drink stations and ice machines; has installed Plexiglas partitions at the front desks; and is increasing cleaning and disinfecting protocols. The company is using electrostatic sprayers with EPA-approved cleaning products.

“One thing that I can say is with all of the new safety protocols being implemented, hotels are safer and cleaner than ever before,” Finvarb said.

At his Residence Inn, at 1231 17th Street in Miami Beach, the breakfast buffet has been replaced with pre-packaged items for guests.

Finvarb said that by “doing what we can to ensure the wellbeing” of hotel guests and employees, “we expect to see increased consumer confidence and demand.”

Among other properties that have reopened in South Florida are the 1 Hotel South Beach, DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay Miami, the Hyatt Centric South Beach Miami, Dezer Development’s Days Hotel by Wyndham Thunderbird Beach Resort, the Marriott Stanton South Beach, the Staybridge Suites – Miami International Airport and the TownePlace Suites Marriott Miami Airport, according to the hotels and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Still, a number of hotels are waiting to reopen until enough demand exists.

“Clearly for us, the next four weeks we’re going to focus on the Florida and Georgia drive market,” said Bill Talbert, CEO of the GMCVB. Talbert said that the organization is in touch with previously booked conventions and rescheduled conventions and is also looking to book new business.

“If there is ever a place that can accommodate social distancing, it’s a 1 million-square-foot convention center,” he said, referring to the renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, which is currently being used as a temporary hospital.


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