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Lani Kai gives back to local first responders

Resort offering deep discounts for local first responders for month of October

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Oct 9, 2020

Ken Conidaris, whose family has operated the Lani Kai for over 40 years, is planning to open up the Island View Resort next week along with Rick (at left, played by Humphrey Bogart) from "Casablanca."

As part of giving thanks to emergency responders in the community, the Lani Kai Island Resort announced that it is offering steeply discounted $30 rooms to local first responders this month.

“As we continue through this pandemic, our staff and family of the Lani Kai know just how extra hard our community first responders have been working to maintain the health and safety of Southwest Florida over the last six months, Lani Kai Island Resort Marketing Director Melissa Schneider said. “With that, we’re happy to make a very special offer to those hard-working frontline community servants to enjoy, take a break and relax on the beach for a few days. Through the month of October, we’re offering $30 room rates (with a maximum stay of three nights) to our community first responders of Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties.”

The rates are deeply discounted for rooms overlooking the beach which can run in the $150 range this time of year, Lani Kai Island Resort’s Ken Conidaris said.

This is another part of the resort giving back during the pandemic. In the early stages of the pandemic, Lani Kai Island Resort General Manager Larry Puccia and bar manager Val Puccia delivered hand-made pizzas to emergency responders including hospital workers.

That has been a tough year on the resort, with a deadly shooting on beach behind the hotel in July along with business slowing down due to COVID-19. At the height of a normal season, the Lani Kai will employ 250 or more workers. There are over 100 employees working currently due to the local drop in tourism as well as the usual off-season slowdown.

The Island View Resort is scheduled to reopen next week at the Lani Kai Island Resort on Fort Myers Beach

In August, the resort beats its occupancy numbers from last year though its ancillary businesses have been most affected, Conidaris said. “We’ve been bucking the trend (nationally),” he said.

“I’m really happy that we were able to open up our bars again,” Conidaris said. Next week, the resort will open up its Island View Restaurant, on the top floor adjacent to its Sun Deck Restaurant. “It will be nice running on all cylinders again,” he said.

The Sun Deck Restaurant, Sabal Palm Patio Bar & Grill and two of the bars downstairs have reopened.

Even though the Lee County Sheriff’s Office labeled the July shooting a targeted one that occurred hours after the hotel’s restaurants were closed (its bars had been closed for weeks), it was a tough blow for a business built literally from the ground up by the Conidaris family more than 40 years ago.

“I don’t think we could have done anything different,” Conidaris said. “Bad things can happen anywhere.”

The view of the beach from the Island View Restaurant at the Lani Kai Island Resort on Fort Myers Beach.

The resort has instituted a host of security and safety changes as a result.

“My dad (Bob) was always happy to offer our beach and property to the public – anyone who wants to come by and have fun on the beach is always welcome. We want to continue that tradition, but as times have changed over the years – and months, so have our systems and how we operate,” said Conidaris

The resort is working to enclose the property’s perimeter more so it’s not as wide open. Schneider said thousands of people pass through the resort’s property every week.

“Although this enormous, wide-open beach property was something my dad was so proud to do for the last 43 years, as times have changed, we definitely still want to continue to remain open to the public, but in a more controlled manner,” Conidaris said.

Conidaris, who returned to the hotel last year after working in the banking industry, said he has been “very surprised to see how much divide” is on the beach. “I am hoping we can change that.”

Conidaris attended the Beach Elementary School growing up. “I don’t remember all the fighting and bickering (that goes on now),” he said. “The whole beach used to get along.”

He noted community efforts the resort has been a part of, such as hosting blood drives and making numerous donations to cover the cost of New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations at Times Square. The resort has also regularly hosted the scholarship award celebration of the Beach Kids Foundation.

Conidaris has objected to the creation of a nuisance abatement board in town which he thinks will hurt businesses. “We gave it our (best) shot,” Conidaris said of the resort’s efforts to persuade the town council not to adopt the ordinance. “Hopefully for the future, things will be better.”

Conidaris looks around the hotel, with art all over its walls. He said the resort’s longtime artist Alan Mishaga has been touching things up over recent months. “My mother (Grace) hired him.”

He mentions efforts his family has made to make good in town. “Our parents taught us to be good with your word.

List of security changes at the Lani Kai:

The Lani Kai Island Resort has announced a number of changes focusing on health and safety. According to a list provide by Lani Kai Island Resort Marketing Director Melissa Schneider, more changes are in the works.

Among the changes announced so far:

• A guests-only after-hours plan, which only allows hotel guests on the property after hours (currently midnight).

With the current pandemic, and a way to streamline operations, upon check-in, guests now receive hands-free waterproof silicone wrist-fobs that access their room, rather than key cards. This allows guests to easily get in and out of their room while also showing staff that they are permitted on the property after hours.

• Like most other island accommodations, the hotel recently initiated a minimal resort fee, which includes several amenities, and is keeping a “Do Not Rent” log, for those with a history of trouble at the hotel.

• The hotel continues to hire off-duty Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies every Saturday and Sunday, as well as holidays, and has teamed up with a national security expert with a high-clearance background who has been focusing on that department and many strategies within it.

• Any security staff who has not yet been certified/licensed has been put through the proper training to receive official certification and licensing on behalf of the hotel.

• Increased and enhanced security cameras throughout both properties, including additional beach cameras.

• Establishing structured entrance points for the public to come through upon their arrival.

• The team plans to close off all guest-room floors, accessible only by hotel guests. Utilizing the new wrist-fobs, this is a system that will be implemented through the hotel’s three elevators, which will take guests to their specific floor, as well as enclosed stairwells that require wrist-fobs to access.

The two main floors will remain accessible to the public and restaurant patrons: The Island View and Sun Deck on the top floor; and first-floor lobby, café and Sabal Palm restaurant.

• Additionally, after 10 p.m., the elevators will only remain open to hotel guests (with use of their wrist-fobs to gain elevator access).

• Staff is working on updating the hotel’s main double elevators with air conditioning, increased air circulation, all-new lighting and multimedia displays.