By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Jared Galbut had a pretty simple payment structure in his first unofficial job.
His dad would drag him regularly to the hotel they owned on South Beach. Dad would put him to work on menial tasks – painting rooms was a regular request – and at the end of the day, they’d walk next door, where a day’s work offered the reward of an ice cream cone.
“This goes back to 4 or 5 years old, and my dad is bribing me with ice cream,” Galbut recalls. “At the time, it was hard work, but now I look back at that fondly. Those are some of my favorite memories.”
The property in question wasn’t anything special back then, just another mid-rise in a long row of seen-better-days properties along the canal heading into North Beach. It became a nursing home at one point, and the family even sold and then bought it back.
In 2009, Galbut and his family – the property was owned by an extended group of cousins and brothers and sisters – decided to turn it into something special. Galbut teamed up with his cousin, Keith Menin, to create Menin Hospitality, which would run the new property. They’re both still under 40 and had their start in the industry tending the front desk of their uncle’s hotel, Shelborne South Beach. Unlike anything around it, they wanted to operate the new Gale South Beach as a stylish, high-end boutique.
When it reopened, the Gale was among the first boutique-style hotels not on the water. Just steps from the ocean and Lincoln Road, it seemed like a spot ready for redevelopment that had just never come. Since then, though, the Gale became a catalyst to turn the area into something unique, a row of mostly boutique-style hotels with trendy restaurants and lots of walking traffic.
Now, Galbut and his family have brought the idea north. Earlier this year they took over as managers of a new 12-story residential tower on Fort Lauderdale Beach called Gale Fort Lauderdale Boutique Hotel & Residences. The owner, Newgard Development Group and Dev Motwani’s Merrimac Ventures, quickly sold out all 129 condos. Sometime this year they’ll add an adjoining 96-room hotel under the same name.
Like in South Beach, the new property arrives in a neighborhood, called North Beach, that not long ago didn’t have much shiny and new except for the towers along A1A. Recently, though, the neighborhood has seen a rebirth of many of the aging low-rises in an attempt to turn the area into something more charming and approachable than the glitzy properties right on Fort Lauderdale beach.
For the Gale in Fort Lauderdale, Galbut and Menin found a partner who had a background similar to their own. Motwani had grown up in his family’s hotels on Fort Lauderdale beach, and the property that would become the Gale had long been underutilized considering its proximity to the water, most recently serving, just like Gale South Beach, as a nursing home.
“The Gale really set off a drive to boutique hotels on South Beach,” Galbut says. “Now this is the same idea we’re hoping to see on this side of Fort Lauderdale beach.”
For the residential portion, the high-rise features a couple of pool decks, one for the residents and one for the hotel, with views of the Intracoastal and downtown beyond. There are common areas full of blond and gray wood. But while the residential tower isn’t far afield from others, the hotel looks like something different. Just to the north of the tower, Menin Hospitality will take over management of a collection two-story out-buildings that will become spacious hotel rooms separated by lush gardens and water features. The property will be home to a Dolce brand restaurant – the group also runs Scarpetta in the Fontainbleau – and a cocktail bar that’ll be reminiscent of the poolside Broken Shaker on Miami Beach.
“This design makes it something special and unique, where you get this kind of fun courtyard setting and campus resort vibe,” Galbut says. “I think after this, you are really going to see this whole little neighborhood come together.”
Gale Fort Lauderdale Boutique Hotel & Residences, 401 N. Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, 954-947-0501, galefll.com