Pssst. Hey, buddy. Know where a guy can get some giggle juice?
Fans of the Roaring '20s will have a place to get a wiggle on and sip the hair of the dog this month when Grayl's Hotel opens the Prohibition Club, a private social venue playing off the building's year, 1922.
"This has been a dream of mine for so many years," said Dale Grayl, who with his wife, Mary, bought the 30-room Beach Drive hotel in 1994. "The building is what makes it. You couldn't do this anywhere else."
Grayl has spent the past year renovating the first floor for the club. He's converting 10 guest rooms into eight sipping "parlors."
Grayl said he's not aiming for the gangster era but rather the Jazz Age, with its "flashy cars and characters." The club is not hidden behind closed doors like a speakeasy; it has plenty of windows.
"It's not a knock-on-the-door type place," Grayl said. "You want to be seen here."
The owner wants the place to be seen, too. He spent about $2-million on the renovation, with more coming in subsequent phases. The interiors include Brazilian cherry floors, copper ceilings, beveled mirrors, and neon lights recessed in wooden moldings carved like grapevines.
An 86-foot awning will wrap around the front corner of the building. Grayl will harden the front lawn and use it to display a growing fleet of 1920s cars for show and livery service. A dance floor inside sits on its own separate concrete slab so those doing the Charleston won't disturb other guests.
When all is said and done, Grayl will end up with the club, a cigar lounge upstairs and a 300-seat public restaurant on the south patio. He'll be left with only about 17 hotel rooms.
"I'll make 10 times more money on those rooms," he said, "because I'll have these facilities."
Membership doesn't come cheap. Annual dues start at $995, after a $3,000 initiation fee. Access to the club is for members and hotel guests only, but members will get deals in the club, the restaurant and hotel.
The club was originally part of plans to add five stories to the hotel. Now bookended by condo buildings Parkshore and 400 Beach Drive, with rumors of another hotel going up nearby, the hotel has to do something to thrive, Grayl said. He said downtown residents didn't like his vertical expansion plans, but he hopes the club will be welcomed.
"This is not going to be some tourist trap," said Grayl, 58. "This will be a tourist destination."
Only two of the parlors are finished, but Grayl insists on opening this month. He said annual memberships won't start counting "until the fat bar sings," pointing to the last room slated for completion. The restaurant won't open until 2009, and the cigar lounge after that.
The couple plan to have about 1,500 members and said that more than 100 have already signed up. There are memberships for singles, couples and families and corporate arrangements. Members get their own display case for their private glassware. And a liquor "stash in case the feds show up," Grayl said.
The Grayls get misty when they look at the finished product of their initial $725,000 purchase.
"Every night we sit in a different chair so we can see different things," said Mary, who manages their other business, Wave Pool and Spa. "In the daytime, it's pretty, but at night it just glows."
Paul Swider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 892-2271.