I clearly remember the cynic’s joking about why Ken and Lloyd opening a “Country Bar” in Fort Lauderdale, and that it would never make it. Well 10 years, one move and a few expansions later Scandals has the last laugh as it is one of the most successful bars in Fort Lauderdale’s gay history. On the heels of their 10 year anniversary extravaganza, it was a pleasure to sit down with GM Howard Merritt for this exclusive Hotspots Interview.
How did you get started in the bar/club world?
I started DJing at the opening of a gay community center in Albany NY when I was 19. Back then the drinking age was 18. The very next year I moved to NYC and started spinning at different bars.
How long did you DJ and what were some of your best parties/events you spun at?
I Deejayed for 30 years and some of the best events were The Saint, Studio 54 and Fire Island.
How did you get into managing clubs?
I had moved to Key West and was DJing there and John Castelli at the Copa KW offered me a job managing approx. 25 years ago and I fell in love with management, although I did continue to DJ periodically. Even these days, once in a while, you can find me behind the turntables.
What made you move to Fort Lauderdale?
I turned 50 and I decided it was time to retire from the club world. So, I moved to Ft Laud and got my real estate license. I couldn’t sell squat and Toni Baronne hired me as her daytime manager. Afterwards I went over to Dudes full time, and then back with Toni over at Elements. When Scandals bought the Elements location I came with the building.
How has it been for you at Scandals?
It took me 50 years to find the right people to work for. They are very family oriented and they give. They give me anything I need and believe in my judgment without question. Ken and Lloyd (note: Lloyd passed last year) are very honorable people and good friends.
What has been the biggest surprise at Scandals?
How amazing the Sundays are. We put together a marketing plan that we thought the community would support, but we did not expect it to be as jam packed as it is every single week!
Tell me about your team?
Craig is the other manager and I refer to him as my co-manager, as he is that good. I can’t remember working with a better manager in any bar I ever worked at. We support each other 100%. He takes care of staffing and I take care of operations. As far as the rest of the staff, how can you go wrong when you have Pooch and Vince working for you? Most of the rest of our staff have been with us since we moved over to this location, and all 4 Elements staff that stayed are still working with us. We have a very loyal staff.
What does the future hold for Scandals Saloon?
Continued growth. We are constantly improving on what we have. Always putting the customer first and listening to what they want. We will always continue this formula!
What do you have planned for the 10th anniversary?
It’s going to be a 4 day extravaganza celebration. On Thursday, March 19 we feature a 10th anniversary country spectacular with Rajean Cox and Charlie V at 8pm. On Friday, March 20, we feature the famous Dean & Lee and Fire & Ice performing live at 8pm. On Saturday, March 21, Is the Sexy Cowboy Contest – Mr. Scandals 2015 where the winner will receive $500 and the 1st alternate gets $250. The contest starts at 8pm sharp and contestants can register online at Scandalsfla.com or by calling Howard Merritt at 954-296-9512. Sunday they will feature Happy Hour prices all day and a $10 beer bust from 3pm to close, as well as DJ Katastrophy on the patio from 4-11pm and Karaoke inside starting at 9pm.