FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – A Fox 4 investigation reveals dozens of potentially dangerous conditions at several hotels and motels on Fort Myers Beach that could threaten SWFL tourism.
When it comes down to picking a place to stay on the beach we know it’s all about location.
Rubby Ruiz thought she found the perfect location when she reserved a room at the Pier View Hotel and Suites on Fort Myers Beach, but when she saw the room – that changed.
“The quality indoors, in the rooms…it’s not the best,” said Ruiz.
Not the best is putting it lightly. Fox 4 did some digging and found the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation slapped the Pier View with more than a dozen health and safety violations in the last two years alone.
The violations range from the unpleasant like “paint peeling inside the top dresser drawer,” “inadequate ventilation…musty odor in bathroom,” to the downright gross like a “soiled bathroom sink with buildup of soap scum,” and a “mattress/box spring of bed soiled or stained.”
Our investigation even revealed disgusting conditions like a “soiled refrigerator with a buildup of mold-like substances.”
We went to the Pier View Hotel and Suites, the destination with the most violations in the last two years, for a comment. At the time, the manager told us that he did not want to comment, and that the hotel is under new management as of this year, so problems happening before aren’t necessarily the issues of the current owner.
Several days later, I reached out to the management for a comment again and I was sent the following statement:
"This property was purchased in 12/12 it had withstood 12 years of prior neglect and mismanagement from the previous owners and foreclosing financial institution. We have been working diligently to update with new televisions, furnishings, pool furniture, fixtures, bedding and painting. We resurfaced the pool and paved the pool deck. The previous Owner's Manager was overseeing this property until January 2014 therefore I cannot comment on their dealings with the DBPR. We currently have a good relationship with the DBPR and take their inspections serious remedying all issues at once,” said Robin Harvey, spokeswoman for the hotel.
The Pier View isn’t the only hotel on the beach getting a poor report card from the department that keeps the hotels in check.
In fiscal year 2012-13, there were 63 health and safety violations cited at the hotels and motels on Fort Myers Beach, and so far in this current fiscal year, the tourist hotspots are looking to outdo themselves, with 62 violations already, with several months of reporting left to go.
The violations are widespread, from an “objectionable odor present at the property” and “toxic/poisonous material (at the Motel) not labeled,” as cited at the Tahitian Inn Motel off of San Carlos Boulevard.
Other businesses like the Edgewater Inn were caught “operating without a license or (an) expired license.”
At the Edison Beach House – troubling violations – like a “loose balcony railing on the second floor stairwell,” along with “expired balcony inspection certificates.”
“Any violation is unacceptable, but it’s not necessarily alarming,” said Keith Barron, J.D., Esq., hospitality expert and Professor at the University of South Florida-Manatee.
We took the question of exactly how alarmed you should be the next time you book a hotel on FMB to Barron.
“It's very difficult to run a hotel, a restaurant, and not have some violations,” said Barron.
“Are the hotels hiding something,” asked Four in Your Corner’s Julian Glover.
“Inspectors don’t make reservations,” said Barron, “they don’t call and say ‘we’re gonna be here at a certain time’ – they show up unannounced.”
The DBPR tells Fox 4 they inspect properties like the hotels on Fort Myers Beach two-to-three times per year at random and perform additional inspections as needed, whenever a vacationer like you makes a formal complaint.
“Leaders, managers - they should be training housekeeping, they should be training their employees to regularly inspect,” said Barron.
Inspection is key, but several hotels and motels on the beach could do a better job at it.
One of the most notable names on the beach, which also happens to be one of the most notorious offenders – the Lani Kai.
“They aren’t gonna care. They aren’t gonna put a dime into it, because the college kids are just going to drink beer, throw up, and get up and do it all over again,” said Skip Broden, New York resident turned SWFL transplant for the last seven years.
Depending on when you book, room prices at the Lani Kai can start as low as $65 so it’s no secret the hotel has quite the reputation with college students, luring in springbreakers from around the world.
But known for mold growing in the air conditioning? That’s one of the violations the DBPR has slapped the Lani Kai with.
“Air condition units, accumulations of mold-like substances, observed gray-like substance in vents in one of the rooms.”
Fox 4’s Julian Glover read the violations to a beachgoer.
“If I knew about it, I wouldn’t be happy staying there either,” said Majorie Bonneville.
The springbreak mecca was also plagued with a handful of other violations over the past 24 months, like “dead flies found between the box spring and mattress” and even a high-priority citation like “glassware/tableware/utensils not cleaned and sanitized…no notice to guest posted.”
“When I hear that, I think the danger zone, the zone in which bacteria grows at a very rapid rate,” said Barron.
Jamie Huffman is the marketing director of the 37-year-old FMB fixture; she tells Fox 4 the hotel has launched a multi-million dollar renovation project to give the Lani Kai a new reputation and a new look.
“We’re actually renovating all of our rooms right now,” said Huffman, “So we just gutted all of the bathrooms in every hotel room.”
The overhaul of the restaurant is already complete, and so far everything that’s new is spotless.
Experts say the bottom line is you should be vigilant, but not paranoid.
Barron points out, the Lani Kai taking the steps to turn around its image after being slapped with citations shows the system of checks and balances is in place, and working.
“Of course they should be on the lookout for violations for safety concerns, but I don’t think they have to necessarily fret about it,” said Barron.
Lesson learned for tourists on the beach.
“I think it will make me look a little harder when I go to a motel room the next time,” said Bonneville.
If you find something during your vacation, that’s not up to par you can report the incident and the state will inspect within 48hrs.
You can report violations HERE.
Follow this link to checkout violations for any hotel, motel, or other business in the state HERE.