We love Miami’s vaunted array of flamboyant Art Deco hotels, which often times feel like Hollywood set pieces mixing Casablanca and Alice in Wonderland. But there are some groups and planners seeking a more subdued tone away from the beach, without losing the South Florida ambience and its sashaying cocktail culture.
EPIC Hotel opened two years ago at the mouth of Miami River in downtown, just 10 minutes by car from all the hip-shakin’ hubbub in South Beach. The 411 guestrooms and suites all have private balconies, occupying a brand new hi-rise tower with scintillating views of the city and Biscayne Bay. About 75 percent of the rooms have water views, but all of them feel spacious and airy thanks to the minimum 475-sf layout and large sliding doors opening out to the balconies.
The décor is another big blast of fresh air, thanks to the restraint of Cheryl Rowley Design out of Beverly Hills. Muted beiges, soft coppers and light coffee tones mix with bamboo and wicker motifs around contemporary common sense furniture.
Meanwhile, the extra large bathrooms make statements with judicious use of stone and glass, and standalone tubs in the suites, while the bath goodies are a nice surprise, too: Acqua di Parma. The whole effect of tamping down the interior décor lets the sunlight and outdoor views take center stage.
On the 14th floor, the 10 various meeting spaces total 11,000 sf, which includes the 4,200-sf Metropolis Ballroom. But the killer space is the 15,000-sf pool deck on the 16th floor, with two pools and the local’s fave Area 31 Restaurant. There’s also a row of chic pool cabanas stealing a page from South Beach’s sexy sultans of swankiness.
“This is a cosmopolitan boutique hotel with the amenities of a resort; it’s really the ultimate in urban waterfront living,” says Eric Jellson, director of sales/marketing. “We set out to create a DNA that was atypical to a downtown property. There’s nothing like this in Miami. Furthermore, EPIC certainly fills a need for meeting planners who have senior management worried about any type of negative perception.”
So let’s check in with a planner.
“It really does have a nice upscale feel, and a lot of people think they want the beach but this is so convenient,” says Stacie Esslinger, CMP, an associate regional vp with HelmsBriscoe. “It’s important for a planner many times to feel like they’re able to control their group and know that everyone’s not taking off for the beach at any second.”
Esslinger also likes the wealth of meeting space and the central location 15 minutes from the airport, but like everyone else, she digs the pool space.
“Miami really needed a Kimpton hotel with its boutique feel,” she says. “That truly is a beautiful pool deck. Up there, it still feels like you’re in Florida.”
Area 31 Adjacent to the pool deck, the Area 31 Restaurant is named after an area monitored for overfishing by the United Nations—basically the Caribbean and Caribbean Rim nations. Translation: Lots of fresh sustainable seafood like yellowfin tuna, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and Key West pink shrimp mixed in Afro-Carib spices. The wine list tilts between Mediterranean and North American, but we like the limoncello martinis, especially when sipped in the poolside cabanas.
And, due to EPIC’s location on the river, it’s the only downtown hotel with a nearby berth for 100-ft yachts. Handy when your group wants to go fishing in the Atlantic, or sail over for salsa lessons in South Beach.