The new owners of Looe Key Reef Resort did the math.
The resort's 24 waterfront motel rooms -- and their occupants -- aren't likely to generate enough revenue to sustain the property's tiki bar, pool, restaurant, 40-foot boat and dive shop.
But when you add thousands of thirsty Lower Keys locals to the equation, and give them access to a hotel pool, tiki bar, rental boats and a water taxi to the offshore Picnic Island, then the numbers begin to make sense.
"All the changes and modifications we make will directly benefit the locals of this community," said Dale Perrigo, one of the business partners who bought the Ramrod Key resort a few weeks ago. "We want to have a mix of people, both locals and tourists at the bar and by the pool. And despite rumors on the Coconut Telegraph, we are not getting rid of the motel."
Perrigo partnered with Deborah and Jim Figuerado as well as Bruce Hernandez, a fifth-generation Conch, to buy the property at Mile Marker 27.5 that specializes in lodging, libations and the Looe Key Reef, which has been federally protected for longer than any other reef site in the Florida Keys -- and it shows in the vibrant colors of the coral.
Looe Key is the name for an underwater reef. The Looe Key Reef Resort is actually located on Ramrod Key. The Looe Key sanctuary area is also home to the wreck of the Adolphus Busch, an artificial reef that was intentionally sunk more than a decade ago to relieve pressure on the natural reef, provide fish habitat and a stunning dive site.
The resort had been in receivership for about two years, meaning the bank assigned a third-party to run it, when the previous owner died unexpectedly, said Realtor Curtis Skomp, who brokered the $2.5 million transaction that was finalized March 29.
The former receivers apparently made some unpopular changes to the rules governing locals' access to the resort's pool area.
That has all changed, Perrigo said Wednesday.
"Our vision includes a true appreciation for the locals," he said. "We understand they used to have access to the pool, and they now have it again from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as long as they register with us and get a [free membership] card."
Other changes include the addition of rental boats to the property, along with a water shuttle service to nearby Picnic Island, long a Lower Keys hangout on the water that was the exclusive domain of boat owners and their chosen friends.
"When the weather is too rough for our dive boat, the Kokomo II, to go out to the reef, we'll use it as a shuttle to take locals and tourists to Picnic Island," Perrigo said, adding that the partners are actually considering buying a second boat so they can always have a designated shuttle boat when the dive boat is out.
The new owners have kept the existing staff on board, and are very proud of the property's cleanliness, and the "Old Florida style of the motel rooms and the overall property.
"People that come down here and stay with us don't want the over-the-top commercial side of things," Perrigo said. "Our motto is 'Keep it simple.' We want to be a one-stop shop for everyone in the Lower Keys."
From breakfast to last call, cold drinks, live music and water sports, the resort offers its all, along with shockingly affordable room rates that range from $85 to $125 per night.
"Our goal is to be here for a long time," he said. "As long as everyone walks out of here with a smile, then we've done our job."