Parrotheads, as fans of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett are known, aren’t the only ones checking out the new Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter – although fans have flocked to the urban island oasis since the tropical-rock entertainer passed away earlier this month, just two weeks after the hotel officially opened.
The hotel, part of a global lifestyle brand, is named after the 1977 hit song by Buffett, who passed away at his home in New York on Sept. 1 from complications related to skin cancer. Buffett’s last public concert with his Coral Reefer Band was May 6 at Snapdragon Stadium.
“People have been flocking to the hotel since Jimmy’s death, and we expected that,” said Brandon Walton, director of sales and marketing at the local Margaritaville Hotel. “But the hotel is not just for Parrotheads. They’re very excited that we’re here, of course, but we really have been marketing this as a venue that’s appropriate for everyone. A feel-good American beach vibe with a Baja Mexico flair.”
The 10-story, 235-room hotel near Petco Park at the corner of J Street and 6th Avenue opened on Aug. 18 after about $30 million in renovations to prior tenant Hotel Solamar. It’s the first city-center hotel on the West Coast for parent company Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts. Where there were about 100 employees at Hotel Solamar, that number is closer to 200 at Margaritaville, Walton said.
Hotel Solamar, one of the first boutique lifestyle hotels in downtown San Diego, was developed in 2005 by John Moores’ JMI Realty as a Kimpton Hotel in partnership with LaSalle Holdings, LLC, and in 2018, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust (PEB: NYSE) took over ownership as part of LaSalle.
Walton came on as part of Davidson Hospitality Group as director of sales and marketing in 2019 to help with the transition. Delayed because of COVID-19 challenges, work on Margaritaville San Diego started back up full force in January of this year.
Walton said that in seven months’ time, every part of the hotel was renovated and refreshed, and “totally transformed.”
Attracting Travelers, Staycationers
Guest rooms, from 380- to 1,250-square feet, have a casual, tropical seaside feel and a beach color palette, with Rattan furnishings, soft wood grain throughout and vinyl wood plank tile flooring. Room rates range from $207 to $450, depending on the season and location.
“Our goals are to drive occupancy higher at a premium rate,” he said. “At the same time, we are looking to develop a group of loyal customers regionally to be our main market. We’re seeing a lot of regional travel but also a decent amount of international regional travel.”
Regarding overseas visitors, Walton said, “a lot of people come to the U.S. looking for that ‘real America’ feel and Margaritaville is part of that reality. And if you can come to a convention and get a little bit of paradise, why not?”
Margaritaville’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar (based on the 2003 hit “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” sung by Buffett and Alan Jackson) can fit 200 people and boasts San Diego’s largest rooftop pool deck at 8,500-square feet, with sprawling city views and a peek into Petco Park. The ground-level LandShark Bar & Grill and the Margaritaville Coffee Shop in the lobby are also drawing crowds.
Though early in its tenure, Margaritaville is already notably popular with Los Angeles and San Diego “staycationers,” Walton said, many of whom come to check out the hotel’s live entertainment five days a week.
“We’ve been seeing strong numbers, particularly on the weekends,” he said. “There’s a strong leisure demand and a great response from the audience. One of the things this hotel is expected to be is one of the top hotels in the market. It’s a solid investment in a product that is high-end casual luxury but is also very non-pretentious.”
Margaritaville San Diego also has a new general manager in Jim Hollister. He took over earlier this summer for David Meisner, now regional vice president for White Lodging.
“Margaritaville Hotel San Diego will bring fun, escapism, and unique style of hospitality to the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, and I am excited to be a part of it,” Hollister said.
The Margaritaville empire is equally excited about San Diego and has even more expansion plans for the region.
The Margaritaville Island Resort San Diego is scheduled to open along Mission Bay in 2024 but has been held up because of previously documented California Coastal Act violations related to public access.
The project is expected to revamp Paradise Point Resort & Spa. The California Coastal Commission addressed access concerns and enforcement at its Sept. 6 meeting. Blake Bellucci of Finn Partners, handling public relations for Margaritaville Holdings, said “there are no details to share at this time.”
Alexander Llerandi, an analyst with the California Coastal Commission said orders have been laid out that dictate what Paradise Point or future proprietors will need to do to be in compliance.
Marketed as a 44-acre island, the bayside site will feature 462 bungalow-style guest rooms, bars and eateries, a full-service marina, luxury spa and more than 80,000 square feet of event space.
Margaritaville Holdings, LLC
CEO: John Cohlan
BUSINESS: Hospitality/retail network; franchise and license system
REVENUE: $110 million (2022)
WEBSITE: Margaritaville.com and margaritavilleresorts.com
CONTACT: Locally: 619-819-9500 or email@example.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: Among other philanthropic efforts, Jimmy Buffett, who owned the Margaritaville brand’s intellectual rights, supported Singing for Change, Save the Manatee Club, the Jerry Garcia Foundation, Precious Paws, Quicksilver Foundation, Reef Relief, Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.
NOTABLE: Margaritaville is featured in the 2015 film “Jurassic World” as one of the restaurants in the fictional theme park, with Buffett himself making a cameo appearance.