Eat Your Salad and Go: Food Critic Kicked Out of the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

Categories: Cheers!, Really?
ritzpool.jpg
Lounge chairs: So close, yet so far.
Last week, I had reported a craving for rooftop dining with a side of swim that was sated by the untzy Sunday scene at the W Hotel's rooftop. In the comments, a few of you weighed in on poolside seats with a view. Commenter R.J. Petrucci suggested to "play it cool" just about anywhere and "you will be fine." He mentioned the W and the Hilton as accommodating, provided he's spending money. He suspected -- as did I --  that offseason, hotels would appreciate the business.

Not at the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale.

In my original post, I had mentioned that I rang the Ritz-Carlton about dining on the roof. A few days later, P.R. sent me this email:

The hotel actually has a poolside restaurant that is open to the public. No cabana rental necessary. Take the elevator to the 7th floor, walk out the door, and voila! dine poolside from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. -- and the pool and café are the site of the Full Moon parties every month, which are also free with no admission, no velvet rope, $8 light bites, $8 specialty cocktails and $5 valet parking. Contrary to popular belief, the luxury hotel is not out of reach... in fact, we're endeavoring to let people know that it's very accessible.
ritzpool2.jpg
The holding area for the lunch crowd.
Here's how accessible it is: I was kicked out of the pool.

"You're not a guest here," said the cabana dude who intercepted me as I plunked down a towel on one of the lounge chairs and headed toward the pool.

"You have to sit over there." He took my towel and pointed to the bar tables and upright wicker chairs across the roof.

(Suddenly I felt self-conscious about not having enough va-voom. Maybe I should consider that boob job people keep suggesting since I've moved here.)

Despite that the post I had written is about dining and swimming poolside, P.R. neglected to say that if you're not staying at the Ritz, you cannot swim, nor can you sit in a chair that's not a part of the café.

Don't get me wrong: The view is terrific. But the food is standard Sysco. And let's state the obvious here: It's hard not to be wistful over at the bar, longing for a swim during the 90-degree heat. I was wearing a suit and everything.

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Richard, my very gracious server, felt bad. "Here's some bottled water," he said, taking note of the three other drinks aligned on my table. "I'm sorry you can't swim. It's hot out here."

I tore through a Key lime colada, an iced tea, two bottles of water, and a meat-free Southwestern salad pretty quickly and paid the $33 tab. After all, I was in a hurry to cool off with the riff-raff at the sandy beaches below.


Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter. Follow me @melissamccart.

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The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale

1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL

Category: General

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the no swimming or sunbathing policy is quite standard hotel practice here and I would not have been surprised.

Vice-Queen Maria
Vice-Queen Maria

Melissa, I'm glad you wrote this. As a forum moderator and travel editor for Miami Beach 411, I am constantly on the lookout for what policies hotels have about pool access as this is a topic many travelers like to discuss.

I think PR should have been much clearer in their message, but no where does it say in your quote that swimming was allowed. 

The no-swimming or sunbathing policy is quite standard hotel practice here and I would not have been surprised.  This is why you have lounge chair or cabana rentals for non-guests.  (The National Hotel in South Beach has an excellent day option for non-guests, by the way.  The best and most affordable I've come across for locals.)  Still, PR should have explained to you if such options were available at the Ritz in Fort Lauderdale and for pete's sake, you're a journalist, they could have comp'd you access regardless, explaining what the pool policies are.

For most SoFla luxe hotels, eating poolside is accessible; hanging around or *in* the pool is not, unless you get a day pass or cabana. The Delano, the Raleigh, the Shore Club ... all are perfect examples of this.  I can linger at the poolside restaurants/bars and eat/drink as much as I want, but woe is me if I stick my foot in the pool or if I try to order a burger from a lounge chair. 

Laine Doss
Laine Doss

Hi Maria:

I agree on most parts, but usually rules are a major SoBe Art Deco hotel (which I will not disclose so they don't get bombarded). One of the managers asked where we were from and we pointed across the street. He then said to consider this property our second backyard.  We asked - that means the pool? Yes! The pool, the beach chairs, everything, he replied. We want our neighbors to feel welcome. We took him up on the offer many times (each I made it a point to order at least a few $6 diet cokes if not a cocktail and tip generously).

Alan Troop
Alan Troop

First of all, a belated welcome to South Florida. It's a pleasure seeing the area through fresh eyes.

Secondly, my apologies for my tight-sphinctered fellow South Floridians who scolded you for daring to rub shoulders with the more affluent - or quite possibly - the more in debt.

And I agree PR screwed up. They should have just comped you that day. Though as someone who grew up down here and spent many of his younger summers either working at hotel pool decks or sneaking into the more ritzy ones, the main thing is acting as if you belong. And, forget the boob job, if confronted by an officious asshole, the thing that usually melts their heart is a nice green tip.

Best luck next time.

Russ
Russ

Hotels have a conundrum, they want ppl to spend money but they dont want you taking up any space. It seems to me that if you spend $18 on a burger it ought to buy you something. But it only buys you a good-bye.

The food at the ritz is not "sysco". Call them out on not being local friendly. But don't be a yelper

melissamccart
melissamccart

hotels have not been in my repertoire, primarily because they're more institutional than is my style. so, yes, i agree with you on the conundrum.

However, that salad is canned beans and corn, hearts of romaine, mealy tomatoes, and chips from another era. just calling it like it is.

It's not a big deal to not swim there. I care under the pretext of how we were invited. I just don't think you invite readers to a place under the guise of accessible then velvet rope it.

In Defense of the Ritz
In Defense of the Ritz

This blog post proves what little class, if any, you have. You're really going to criticize the Ritz for not allowing a non-guest to use its pool? Do you really think an upscale resort -- with rooms as much as $6K per night -- would want just anyone coming to use their amenities simply because they ordered a cocktail and a salad? Please. Sure, the bars and restaurants are open to paying guests, but that doesn't warrant a free pass to use the pool. You either pay a day fee, or have reciprocal rights as a member of a neighboring country club, etc. Sadly, you probably have never had the luxury of doing either. Bottom line: you did dine poolside, and there was no promise you could take a dip. The mention of a monthly full moon party is vague, true, but would appear more "accessible" given that it's an actual event. Don't trash the resort for not wanting to see your pallid ass on their lounge chairs. Anyways, didn't your mother advise you not to swim on a full stomach? 

melissamccart
melissamccart

I appreciate the comment. I was not aware I had to show my club memberships, my degrees at my new England schools, and evidence of how my mother raised me in my posts. perhaps I should take your advice and flag my pedigree. next time i'll talk about babs from monmouth beach club...and how we liked our half and half and pub cheese under the striped awning as we were waited on by the summer help.

In any event, the post is not critical of the policy. when the pr rep reached out to me, she was disturbed by the information i learned from calling-that non guests can go to the ritz if they pay for a cabana. it would have been nice if the day pass were even an option. what's bothersome is that the information conveyed by the ritz carlton to readers under the guise of accessibility is unclear.

softshooz
softshooz

I just read and re-read this and your earlier post.  I don't think you referred to being able to actually swim in the pools you were looking for.  The way I read it, you wanted a poolside 'dining' experience, not a 'dinining and swimming' experiece.And the 'invite' from the Ritz also talks about dining poolside, not actually being able to use the pool.Of course, I'm not sure why one would go to a place like that just to eat hotel fare.

Mike Dukes
Mike Dukes

RJ was right, but you attracted attention by not knowing the rules in my opinion.What did you expect? Weird.. people want to go to a hotel to relax and enjoy themselves like it's public property. That always blows my mind. 

MelissaMcCart
MelissaMcCart

I can see if I just waltzed up there with no interaction with the hotel prior. But when PR responds to a blog post on swimming and lunching at the pool- then invites not only me but readers for an afternoon, it's pretty awkward getting kicked out after said invite. The hotel claims in the note they're trying to be accessible and the bottom line is, they're not.

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