Fans of The Beatles, historical preservation tell Miami Beach Board: ‘You Can’t Do That’ in regards to demolishing the historic Deauville Hotel.         Author: Margot Winick

Can a Beatles landmark be saved? Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board Members think so, so they met Jan. 11 to talk about the owners of the historic designated Deauville Hotel, where the Beatles performed their second “Ed Sullivan Show” nationally televised on Feb 16, 1964. The current owners have, through their neglect, brought about a recent City of Miami Beach order to have the building demolished and historians say “no way”!

After a fire and being declared unsafe, the hotel went vacant in July 2017, while Miami as a destination has only gotten more popular. In its heyday, the Mid-century modern hotel, which opened in 1957, not only broadcast the “Ed Sullivan Show,” where Mitzi Gaynor – not the Beatles – headlined, but it also hosted a 1961 speech by President John F. Kennedy, and attracted the likes of The Rat Pack in its glory days.

The Beatles’ Sullivan broadcast from February 16th, 1964 was honored with a show by 1964 The Tribute held 50 years to the day, in the same room, playing the identical 6 songs live in the Napoleon Ballroom, which hadn’t changed one bit since that historic night when the show was  broadcast across North America on CBS television to Ed Sullivan’s audience of 70 million viewers.

The current owners are the Meruelo family, who own the SLS Las Vegas (formerly the Sahara Hotel and Casino) have sought demolition by neglect: the practice of allowing a building to deteriorate to the point that restoration is not possible. The City of Miami Beach sued the owners for failure to maintain the historic building, and with liens on the property, many feel that the City demolition order merely benefits the owners’ position and rewards them for abandoning this historic resort.

At the meeting, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board (HPB), talked of how the City could progress to try and salvage architectural elements on the property, which would need to be handled with the owners’ involvement, since it’s not public property. As you might guess, there is greater concern for decaying buildings in Miami Beach after 2021’s collapse of the Champlain Towers beachfront condominium, just 20 blocks north, where 98 people died.

On the heels of the demolition order from the City, this was the first time that the Deauville has come up for discussion at the HPB. “This board has been muzzled by the city, and the laws, and everyone in this process,” said board member Jack Finglass. “This is an absolute horror. My seat represents the people, and I got unbelievable calls from the public until midnight last night. It’s unacceptable.”

The demolition by neglect procedure is one that garnered lots of criticism at the meeting, when members of the public were invited to speech in person or on Zoom.

Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League, which has been concerned about the deteriorating Deauville, criticized the demolition order and pleaded to the board in person to reconsider demolition. “This is not only a cultural crisis, it’s now a potential environmental crisis. We still have to see if this building can be salvaged,” he said.

On Zoom, Lori Bakkum said she had toured the Deauville one year prior to closure while serving as chair for the Art Deco Weekend annual event in Miami Beach, celebrating architecture of the period, and a former member of the MDPL said, “This building is a stunning representative of what Miami is, can be and always have been. Every bit of damage to this property was an intentional act by the owners. They have not kept it safe… it has hurt the entire North Beach community. They [owners] cannot be rewarded.”

Tanya Bhatt expressed concern about the City’s demolition order and haste to demolish. “I cannot find the words to express my rage, outrage and disgust at what is happening… The owners did absolutely nothing, and waited for nature to take its course… you must take action now before we destroy this building.”

In addition to being disgusted by the lack of attention the owners gave the building, leading to this demolition order development, speakers lamented the architectural loss, the political and musical historical significance of the building that will make. Central Florida historian Gary McKechnie, who has been among a group of historians and authors watching what is happening at the Deauville and making fans aware of its plight on SavetheDeauville.com, said he has been “tracking the progress or distress of the Deauville over the last several years. The family has been playing the city, playing this preservation board, playing the community.”

Another member of that group, author Bob Kealing, who has worked on preservation efforts for several cultural landmarks in Florida, including The Allman Brothers home and the Keourac House, asked the board via Zoom, “Could we not save the ballroom, the iconic entrance, and the most important Beatles landmark in America aside from The Ed Sullivan Theater [in New York City]? Kealing, who is writing a book on the Beatles’ time in Florida, reminded the board that the Beatles spent 8 days at the Deauville Hotel and wrote 3 songs there.

Another attendee on Zoom, Tim Reid, recalled that John Lennon wrote “You Can’t Do That” during their stay at the Deauville. “That ought to be the motto of this historical board!” he exclaimed.

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board voted to recommend that the City hire an independent structural engineer who has historic preservation experience to inspect the Deauville Hotel and see if a total demolition can be avoided. Meanwhile, Beatle fans savor its historic importance.

Listen to Joe Johnson’s Beatle Brunch, an award-winning broadcaster and Music Host on the Flower Power Cruise and The 70’s Rock and Romance Cruise, and The Ultimate Disco Cruise, Joe created, writes, hosts and produces Joe Johnson’s Beatle Brunch, a nationally-syndicated radio program on The Beatles, now in its 30th year. For exclusive access to more news and historic audio, including weekly Beatle Brunch programs, Old Brown Shows, Brunch Bytes and classic radio shows, join The Beatle Brunch Club . Use promo code BRUNCHDEAL1 or BRUNCHDEAL2 for a discount on your one or two year membership.