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Many Miami party patrons call the high-end hospitality entrepreneur David Grutman the King of Miami. But over cake in his kitchen, as we discussed his 20-year career—from modest beginnings in a marketing office to making millions in hospitality—he didn’t exude a “holier than thou” party-boy attitude. Instead, he evoked warm energy, a hustler mentality, and nuanced ideas about hospitality. Grutman, to me, seems more like the Godfather of Miami.
Perhaps this is why his seven restaurants and two nightclubs are mega successful. And in April, his trusted Groot Hospitality firm teamed back up with Pharrell Williams to open its first hotel, The Goodtime Hotel, situated on what used to be a forgotten block. Now the Morris Adjmi–designed architectural marvel shines with atmospheric interiors by Ken Fulk, including the eatery Strawberry Moon, a blush pink library, and a rooftop pool oasis. Whitewaller caught up with the native Floridian about expanding from nightlife to hospitality, and where his spots will open beyond the beach next.
WHITEWALLER: Early on, you founded Miami Marketing Group with a friend, then worked with Opium Group, which your first club, LIV, opened under. How did you move from opening nightclubs to restaurants?
DAVID GRUTMAN: I’d take DJs and celebrities to dinners and order off-the-menu items. That’s how I would wow them or make that connection. I wanted to have a restaurant for myself to be able to do this. It’s part of that ecosystem of creating different touchpoints for people when they come to Miami.
WW: Are there any entrepreneurs or establishments that influenced your approach to hospitality?
DG: The person that really set the standard was Nobu [Matsuhisa]. And Jean-Georges [Vongerichten]. They set my expectations, what my dream would be. If I was ever on an island by myself, those are the two chefs I’d want to cook for me. I want to give people an experience that I’d want to have.
WW: Why did you move beyond opening restaurants to a hotel?
DG: When I was activating a space at a hotel, like LIV at Fontainebleau, we activated the entire hotel. If I’m activating a hotel, why would I not be the hotel brand?
The Goodtime Hotel is more of a leisure and travel hotel than a resort, so we want the details to count throughout—from the green carpet designed with wet footprints to the phone and the robe in the room. We also put in high-end finishes like Waterworks sinks. That’s something that’s so luxurious I don’t even have in my house!
WW: Why this location?
DG: When we decided to do this, it was the worst block in Miami Beach. It was also sentimental to me because that was the block all of the clubs and bars were when I first got here. Washington Avenue has gone down, but it’s going through a renaissance. To be a part of that is special because I love Miami Beach. I care about it more than my business.
WW: In 2019, Live Nation acquired 51 percent of Groot Hospitality. How did that impact you?
DG: I have the best partners ever. During COVID, instead of letting us just face it, they came in strong to help—and to make sure we grew. It’s a relief to have such a great partner. When working with a corporate, publicly traded company, some things can be challenging. But they’re not there to tell me what to do, they’re there to ask how they can help me grow.
WW: Your two nightclubs, LIV and Story, were closed for about a year during the pandemic. How did time away from experience-centric moments impact your view of them?
DG: It made me want to ramp up even more when it comes to creating unforgettable experiences. It also made me realize the importance of providing experiences that you can only get through Groot. The past 20 months have made me want to do things better, bigger, and in a way that you can’t wait to put it on your Instagram stories or go home and tell people about it.
WW: You’re expanding beyond Miami soon, with Komodo in Dallas. We also heard rumors of openings in Las Vegas and Qatar. Will you be expanding nationally, or internationally, in the future?
DG: We are expanding. It will be global.