The Fawlty Towers Resort in Cocoa Beach is going clothing optional on May 1st. Paul Hodge, owner, above the pool and Tiki Bar area.
COCOA BEACH, Florida (FL Today) -- Dozens of empty lounge chairs dotted the kidney bean-shaped pool in the courtyard of Fawlty Towers Motel on Thursday, a problem that owner Paul Hodge said has only gotten worse as time passes.
But his solution to get bottoms - albeit bare ones - in his chairs and hotel rooms, has some in Cocoa Beach raising their eyebrows.
Starting Tuesday, Fawlty Towers turns into a nudist resort.
"It's just a niche in the market. There's no competition in 100 miles," Hodges said.
See Also: Fawlty Towers' website
Hodge said the switch to a clothing-optional resort is a last-ditch effort to save his business. Snowbirds flock to rent condos where they avoid the bed taxes hotel guests have to pay, and his 32-room motel struggles to compete with larger chains that he said were "building hotels like it was going out of fashion."
"It's sort of a make-or-break situation. We can't pay ourselves in winter. We had to scrap health insurance," he said. "Every year it gets a little bit worse."
Hodge started researching the idea about two or three years ago, but thought his ex-wife, with whom he co-owns the motel, wouldn't go for it.
But with business struggling, Hodge said she jumped at the idea when a colleague mentioned it to her.
"I wish I had told her ages ago," he said.
Only about 10 rooms are booked for the opening day , but the weekends are filling up quickly, Hodge said. Guests without rooms can buy a day pass that gives them access to the pool and tiki bar at $25 per person, an option that Hodge said might turn out to be more lucrative than overnight stays.
Hodge said he has been flush with potential customers, many from Cocoa Beach, stopping by the motel ever since two nudist magazines wrote features about his transition.
"I didn't think there would be so many nudists right here," he said. "It looks like we'll do well."
Over the winter, Hodge hired an attorney and sought the help of the American Association of Nude Recreation. Both said there was nothing on Cocoa Beach's books that prevented the motel's new dress code.
Cocoa Beach City Manager Chuck Billias confirmed that.
"If you go to a Holiday Inn and take off all of your clothes is that illegal?" he said.
Whether it's legal is one thing. But people in the beachside city have differing opinions on a nudist resort in their community.
Tony Perrera, a cab driver who works in Cocoa Beach, said people he's talked to are none too happy about the new venture. The motel is only three doors down from Shepard Park, which will be filled with children every day as soon as summer hits, Perrera said.
"Is this the right thing to do? No. Not there," he said.
But Annie Abercrombie of Cocoa Beach sees no problem.
"I think it's a good thing. Why not?" she said. "Key West has places like that and they do good business."
Hodges added new screening and and taller balcony fences to block any views. The doors have coded locks to prevent people from slipping into the hotel and signs warn guests where clothing is required.
All staff will be fully clothed in new uniforms except for the bartenders, who will be topless.
Hodge said he has rules in place to ensure Fawlty Towers is a non-threatening, not a place for sexual perversions. Swingers, or talk of it, is banned. So is sexually provocative clothing and cameras.
"We don't want to get the other side of it," he said. "We want to stay as we always have been - family oriented."
Susanne Cervenka, FLORIDA TODAY