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Experience South Beach Like You See On TV At The Cleve

July 01, 2009 By Matt Meltzer in Miami: Travel NewsMiami: Things to Do  | 3 Comments


About once a week, we’d get a question here on the forums asking us if the Clevelander was open yet. It got to be like a little kid in the back of the car asking “Are we there yet?” Even Mick Burke, beverage manager at the Clevelander, told me he stopped giving people dates when they’d call and ask, because he got tired of people being disappointed.

But good news, Miami Beach visitors: The Cleve is back. The 71-year-old South Beach landmark reopened April 30, opening its doors on a high-tech, newly renovated boutique hotel that still brings the party in a way no other hotel in South Beach does.

When the Clevelander closed down in 2007, its management decided it wanted to offer a more-complete hotel experience for the guests. For years the Clevelander had been known as a party spot, but the hotel itself was secondary. Marketing Manager Francine Madera says the new idea was to offer something for everyone, something different and exceptional.

“We asked the older guests we’d had here, people who’d been coming here for a long time, why they came. And they said they came for a good time,” Madera says. “So we wanted to offer different experiences, but always fun. We want people to really be able to take advantage of the real estate, and have something for every guest. Like this place is an everyman’s bar, but we have a DJ, dancers, live bands. Everybody can have a good time.”
The new property has done exactly that. By offering a full-on party in its new entertainment areas, as well as a quiet refuge in the hotel, the Clevelander is now a complete South Beach experience.



Miami, for those who haven’t spent a lot of time here, is not known for its friendliness. Hel, we’re not even known for being cordial. We are more known for making you feel like we are doing you a favor by serving you. This is our home, you are visiting, so be grateful that we don’t shoot you because some people here will. This, however, is not the case at the Clevelander.

The new lobby maintains the historical floor of the old building (much of the building had to be preserved in the name of historical preservation), but it now features a variety of modern-style furnishings like couches with minimal backs and curved chairs.

The front desk staff must either not be from Miami or is heavily medicated, and they handled each guest with a smile and were immensely helpful. One front desk worker was even nice enough to hold on to my Powerade behind the desk as I did my morning Ironman training, puling the bottle out every time I came in. Very nice of them to let me use the lobby as an aid station, I thought. And the place is small enough (only 55 rooms in the whole place) that they remember you every time you walk by.

The free Rum Runner they give you upon check-in isn’t a bad touch either. The Clevelander only allows guests over 21, so giving booze to newcomers is perfectly legal. And for guests who might want to bring older children, the Essex House next door is part of the Clevelander family and allows younger guests.



While a friendly staff is always a plus for a hotel, it’s usually not the main criteria of a guest coming to the Cleve. Your average Clevelander guest is looking to do one thing and one thing only in South Beach, and that’s party. And party you can.

The hotel has maintained its three outdoor bars and swimming pool, and the feel out there is much the same save for the expanded stage. But it has also added an upscale nightclub called 1020 Music Boxx, the first indoor entertainment venue in the hotel’s history. It wasn’t available for tours when I visited the hotel, although one private function was held there. Madera says it is going to be an upscale venue to compliment the more-casual feel of the rest of the property.


In addition to the outdoor bars downstairs, the Clevelander has also added a couple of rooftop decks. These are the kinds of places they really ought to shoot rap videos, with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the South Beach skyline, and even Miami in the distance. The C-Level bar on the sixth floor offers canopy beds and couches, as well as a mini-waterfall sculpture mosaic thing that you can sit behind on a hot day. The bar here, though, is typically only open on weekend nights. Which is good if you want to drink during the day, since you can just being your own booze up there and enjoy the view.

The SPF4 Sun Deck is located in the new South Tower on the fourth floor. It is not as large as its sixth floor North Tower Counterpart, but still offers a great view of the action on the Clevelander Patio and on Ocean Drive. Its bar, like the one on the other level, is also only open occasionally. But these rooftop decks really do offer that sort of quintessential, “I’m in Miami, Bitch,” atmosphere that makes you just want to soak it all in and never leave.


And while the Clevelander has turned its indoor lobby sports bar into the comfortable lobby waiting area, it has created a much larger, more-modern sports bar in the new South Tower called Game On. It features nine televisions as well as a full menu, full liquor bar, and view of the patio bars. All of the lower-level bars serve food from Chef Robbin Haas’ new menu, and you can order food on the rooftop bars as well though it has no designated seating.


The room redesign is far and away the biggest change this hotel has brought. Gone are the cramped, sometimes stressful rooms that are ubiquitous among South Beach Boutique hotels, and in is a peaceful, relaxing experience in the middle of the party. 


The first thing the Clevelander did when redesigning the rooms was outfit them with soundproof windows and insulation. Now, it is damn near impossible to insulate a hotel room against the kind of noise a weekend party at the Clevelander generates . And really, staying at the Clevelander and complaining about noise is kinda like moving to Miami and complaining about Spanish. That all being said, the new “soundproofing” at least minimizes the noise. That is to say I was clearly able to make out the lyrics to “Back Dat Ass Up” as I tried to fall asleep, but I WAS able to fall asleep.

The rooms also offer a soft feel, with white interior and several mirrors, as well as feather-bed mattresses and Egyptian Cotton sheets. I honestly slept better, even with the pool right outside my window, than I did at home. The new black-out curtains also helped keep the blazing sun out of the room, adding to that sense of peace and quiet. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle another day of partying in South Beach.

The bathrooms are the type that invoke bits from bad cruise comedians about being able to shower, brush your teeth and release your bowels without moving, but the fixtures are very nicely done and the water pressure is fantastic. Apparently the CFO spent an entire week going from room to room testing the pressure in each shower to make sure it was perfect. They also feature frosted glass doors, meaning you can basically see your roommates naked outline, which is either sexy or disturbing depending on who you are staying with.


Madera says the idea with the rooms was to offer a sort of refuge away from the party where you could relax and re-energize, and they have accomplished this goal. The rooms don’t offer much in the way of amenities aside from the plasma screen TVs, but you don’t want amenities in a room in South Beach. You want to be out of your room as much as possible. But inside the room, the atmosphere is cool and relaxing, making it a great compliment to the hot action outside.

The hotel also offers a few “Rock Star” suites, which feature larger closets, a King Bed, a big bathroom and a sitting area. Or, basically, what you’d get in your standard Airport Hilton. The difference, of course, is you are on South Beach, so what might be a normal sized room at the airport is much more of a luxury here. The Rock Star suites also offer private hosts and concierges, much like some high-roller suites in Vegas.


Despite the more-upscale renovations, the Clevelander has not lost its original vibe. The place still feels like a party, but now you can do more than just come in with shorts on and have a frozen drink. Staying at this hotel, while not the cheapest in South Beach, is certainly one of the more-complete experiences you can have. A great party and a great place to relax are hard to combine in a 55-room boutique hotel. But the new Clevelander has done it. This may not be the place if you want a quiet, oceanfront vacation. But if you want to experience South Beach the way you see on TV, and not spend $500 a night to do it, the Clevelander is a great option.

Related Categories: Hotels Miami: Travel News, Miami: Things to Do,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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3 Comments on

"Experience South Beach Like You See On TV At The Cleve"

swampthing says:

in the 70’s my family would vacation there from the mainland. no a/c one b/w tv in the lobby.  i’d sit on the porch w my grampi covered in noxema medicated cream. the only noise was on wed eves when the old fogies danced at the hall across the street.  it was the best of times.

Posted on 07/02/2009 at 9:37 AM

Travel says:

I’ve been to South Beach many times, but I haven’t yet stayed at the Cleve.  After reading more about it, the Clevelander has definitely jumped to the top of my list for my next trip down there!  Thanks for sharing.

Posted on 05/13/2010 at 7:47 AM

Matt Meltzer says:

See, this is why we write these things

Posted on 05/16/2010 at 3:20 PM

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