uesthouses in South Florida: is it a sign of changing times in the industry? One of America’s most famous, or perhaps infamous, gay spots is for sale, and others are (gasp!) going mainstream to attract a broader clientele.
The biggest shake-up comes from Key West, with the news that Island House in Key West is now for sale, less than a year after the death of co-owner Martin Kay.
Joe Allen, who still owns the resort currently, opened Island House in 1976 with Kay. Allen sent an email to his entire mailing list that included the following:
“I think I can say without boast that we created at Island House a unique place, a safe and happy space for thousands of gay men to meet, to eat and drink, to make merry. I’m proud of that, but more important in this context, Island House is successful and profitable operation. I’m confident that its new owner will operate it as a gay men’s resort. It has higher ADR’s and occupancy than any comparable property in Old Town. There’s no good reason to change its model. It’s a success,” wrote Allen.
Island House has become the focal point for much of Key West’s LGBT community, as other smaller resorts on the island have become mainstream guesthouses. The restaurant is a popular meeting place for locals to have breakfast, and drag shows by the pool are common (as is sex on the upper outdoor deck and in the hotel’s porn theater).
This sale comes at a critical time for Florida’s LGBT travel industry. Despite Allen’s belief that it should stay a gay-themed property, its location on Duval St. makes it a prime target for real estate developers looking to capitalize on Key West’s ever-escalating market. More importantly, the gay guesthouse industry is on a slow downward spiral, as loyal customers continue to age and younger patrons aren’t coming in.