Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Short and tight is always in fashion at the Whitelaw, where guests in their 20s flock for the free booze (between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and the endless flow of R. Kelly and Beyonce tunes in the background.
It's 7 p.m. and guests are streaming down the stairs, out of the elevator, and in the front door. Free drinks are being served at the bar until 8, and there's no time to lose. "Ladies, what would you like?" the bartender asks a group of four women in their 20s. "Vodka with a splash of cranberry!" blurts out one who's wearing a mini-skirt so short you can see her bathing-suit bottom.
In other words, this isn't a hotel for anyone looking for serenity in Miami Beach -- a bartender asked me if I wanted a drink at 9 a.m., and unsuspecting guests like this TripAdvisor reviewer are apt to be awoken by college-dorm-like antics at all hours of the night.
That said, this 49-room property is a great spot for younger people who come to fully partake of the South Beach party scene and don't mind a little wear-and-tear in their surroundings. With rooms that sometimes go for less than $100 a night, and a great location just a block from Ocean Drive, this is a solid deal -- especially when you figure in the value of the free drinks being poured for an hour every evening in the club-like lobby lounge.
Largely inattentive and grumpy staff, with a few exceptions. Maintenance is also a problem.
Generally speaking, the service is nonchalant and, at times, grudging.
Porters were nowhere to be seen at check-in or checkout. Instead, any staff member who happens to be at the front desk is apparently expected to pitch in. When my room wasn't ready, that meant the woman who checked me in was forced to schlep my bags downstairs to storage -- and she was visibly unhappy about it. Similarly, at checkout, the person on duty only reluctantly answered my questions about the VIP entertainment passes the hotel's website makes such a big deal about.
The truth is that, as at most hotels, the staff doles out whatever passes it happens to have -- Mansion and B.E.D. seem standard -- and may occasionally make a phone call to try to get you on the guest list at Tantra. But don't expect to be magically transported past any heavily guarded velvet ropes.
On the plus side, extra towels arrived in my room less than five minutes after I requested them.
The front-desk staff doubles as concierge, not uncommon for a hotel at this price point. There's no pool, but there is a restaurant with mediocre service that's good for late-night food and drink. The bartenders in the hotel's bar are super-friendly and generous with the booze.
A common complaint among guests was the air-conditioning. At first, mine didn't work at all, and I met a couple from New York who had the same problem. I waited in my room for 45 minutes for someone to fix it before I had to leave. When I returned later, the cold air was blowing full blast, but the room was frigid and I couldn't turn the A/C down or off.
Room service is not available, but I was told the restaurant downstairs could accommodate guests "if they have time."
A quiet, commercial stretch of Collins Avenue surrounded by upscale clothing retailers, one block from the beach and the noisy Ocean Drive bar scene.
The Whitelaw is on a piece of prime Collins Avenue real estate in the heart of some of SoBe's best shopping. You could toss a frisbee at Barney's Coop, Banana Republic and Arden B. But the real draw of Whitelaw's location is that it's a block from the beach -- the part with the volleyball courts -- and that the 24-hour News Cafe is around the corner.
The block of Collins Avenue surrounding the Whitelaw gets moderate foot traffic from shoppers, but it's nothing like the dense throng on Ocean Drive. What this means is that the Whitelaw's entrance isn't impeded by aggressive menu solicitation and street noise is minimal, though the music in the lobby can play until late.
Valet parking is a spendy $30 per night.
The rooms are decorated in a garish Perez Hilton-style pink from which there is no hiding -- it's loud, it's bold, and it's in your face. Some guests will be appalled by the hue, others will see it as a natural choice for a place that emphasizes fun over class every step of the way.
Standard rooms are 225 square feet -- a bit on the small size for South Beach, especially if you get a room with two double beds like mine (though kings are available).
The mattresses are placed on wooden platforms that look like they were made in shop class, and and they don't make for a comfortable sleeping experience. The dubious linens don't help, either -- two of the pillowcases were dirty.
Floors are white, so they're either clean or they're not. Mine were spotless when I walked in, but visibly soiled when I walked out. I guess that was my fault, but why are the floors white, anyway?
The mirrored desk is better suited to illicit drug use than work, but nobody comes here to work. On the desk sits a Teac stereo with an iPod dock and subwoofer. Nips of Jim Beam, Bacardi, and Dewar's are in the minibar if you can't wait for the free happy hour downstairs. Rooms also come with a 42-inch LG flat-screen TV and a safe in the closet that's too small for a laptop.
The bathrooms are marginally bigger than the South Beach average. But like this TripAdvisor reviewer, I found that the shower tends to flood the bathroom. The towels are far from pristine and the toiletries generic.
My third-floor room faced the roof of the hotel next door, so none of the sounds of South Beach leaked in. However, the walls are so thin I could hear -- with enough precision to make a transcript -- the couple next door getting it on.
No pool, but a decent sundeck, free Wi-Fi, and a free (though sometimes late) airport shuttle.
Even better than the sundeck are the free drinks in the downstairs lounge from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Wi-Fi is free and the signal is strong both in the rooms and the public areas.
The South Beach Hotel Group, of which this hotel is a member along with the Metropole and the Chesterfield, among others, offers free shuttle service to and from the airport, though several TripAdvisor reviewers report that the shuttle is slow and sometimes late.
A five-minute walk to the bustling, sexy (as in topless) beach.
A jumbled horde of bikini babes, jacked dudes, couples on holiday, and families with kids play on a stretch of sand 100 yards wide. Just one or two blocks (depending on how you count -- there's an alley in between Collins and Ocean) from the Whitelaw, South Beach makes it clear why there's a diet named after it. Half-naked beauties of all genders and gender preferences sun themselves on the broad stretch of sand. In the mornings, the occasional runner trots along the harder, inland half of the beach. By the afternoon, the joint is packed with sunbathers. The scene thins out again at dusk.
Mobile snack stands are scattered along the beach, selling soft drinks and chips. But alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
The boozy atmosphere and thin walls make this a questionable choice for families. Cribs are free, but no rollaways or connecting rooms.
Cribs are free in this 49-room hotel, but there are no rollaway beds or connecting rooms. Plus, the scene's a little too racy to bring along a little one anyway.
Reasonably sanitary but not truly clean, this place proves that it's not easy keeping white things white.
The floors are white (at least when you arrive) and the linens are white (at least in theory). These seem like a questionable set of choices, especially considering the dust and grime I spotted in the corners of my room; the less-than-pristine towels; the stained white leather couches in the lobby; and the cigarette ash on the check-in counter. The hotel sets the cleanliness bar fairly high, in other words, and then fails to reach it.
Basic food but reasonably priced.
Food at the Whitelaw Lounge is basic but reasonably priced and makes for good snacking after all the free drinks at the bar. A grilled chicken panini is $8.95, pizzas range from $7.50 to $14.50, and a nicoise salad is $10.50.
Breakfast is served from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The three-egg platter with bacon, hash browns, tomatoes, and bagels is $12.99.
The Whitelaw is perfect for the party animal looking for cheap digs in a central Collins Avenue location. It's got a young, lively party scene, free drinks from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., and hot music that plays 24/7. Rooms aren't the cleanest, but they come with 42-inch plasma TVs, iPod docks, and ridiculous pink decor.