|By Jed Gottlieb, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 16, 2010 --If you still don't know where you're going to go when the volcano blows, Jimmy Buffett has a destination you might want to check out.
This month, the first Margaritaville Beach Hotel opens in Pensacola Beach, Fla. And boy, are the Parrotheads ready to flock.
"Yes, there's been a buzz for sure," Parrot Heads in Paradise president Rock Kulisch said from his home in Virginia. "There are a lot of fans who want to have a margarita in every Margaritaville Cafe and have a cheeseburger in every Cheeseburger in Paradise. Now a lot of fans are going to want to stay at this first-ever Margaritaville Hotel."
Buffett -- who brings his annual tour to the Comcast Center on Thursday and Saturday -- has long been turning his tunes into moneymaking spinoffs. From his dozens of restaurants to beer and liquor brands to knickknacks and blenders (or Frozen Concoction Makers, as he calls them), Buffett has pimped out almost every one of his hits.
But until now, there were no Buffett-approved accommodations.
Set on 800 feet of gulf-front property, the hotel is selling itself as 162 rooms of flip-flop chic. It just might be the perfect place to waste away if the biggest disaster of the year weren't taking place offshore: in the last few days, oil plumes from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spill have been bearing down on Pensacola's white-sand beaches.
"Up until the spill, we were at a 15 percent increase in booking over last year," said Ed Schroeder, director of the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We had beaten the recession until the spill. Now we're seeing some cancellations and the phones have quieted."
But Schroeder remains excited about the hotel opening. In a town hungry for jobs and good publicity, the Margaritaville Hotel can do a lot of good.
"It's a huge thing for Pensacola, it's a huge thing for Northwest Florida, it's a huge thing for all of Florida," Schroeder said. "It's a fresh and welcome boost of energy. Parrotheads are people with careers that can choose anywhere to vacation, so to have them want to come here is great. Maybe this could even become Parrothead central."
Chapters of Parrot Heads in Paradise are already talking to the hotel about hosting events. With 232 active clubs spread across three countries, getting Buffett Nation on board early bodes well for the hotel's success.
Kulisch says fans are willing to change their latitudes if Buffett's destinations have the right attitude. As many as 40,000 hedonists make annual pilgrimages to Parrot Heads in Paradise's gathering in Key West, Fla.; thousands more are on quests to get their "passport" stamped at every Margaritaville Cafe location.
"Everyone's very encouraged about a brand-new destination for fans," Kulisch said. "I may not be planning to visit this summer because summer is when I spend all my time on my own boat, but I'll be there next winter or spring for sure."
No doubt Jimmy would agree that your own boat beats a hotel room -- even one in the Margaritaville.
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band, Thursday and Saturday at Comcast Center, Mansfield. Tickets: $36-$136; 617-931-2000.
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