79th St. Causeway
Miami Beach, FL
Opened in 1955
Closed in 1974
by 2 people
Miami Beach's Luau was created in 1955 by owner Jerry Brooks, who hired nightclub designer Franklyn Hughes (sometimes spelled Franklin Hughes) to create a space full of Polynesian spectacle. The entry to the restaurant was a thatched hut with an exaggerated pointed peak, and the sign was a towering rock wall with large blue letters vertically spelling LUAU. The front landscaping was dense with palm trees, and in the '60s also included stylized white moai by Lewis Van Dercar. Van Dercar also sculpted some unusual pieces inside the restaurant, including a dayglo-painted shipwreck scene behind the bar, with elaborate lighting to transition the scene from daytime to nighttime. By the '60s, Luau was owned and run by "Trader Syd" Mass. Each table had a large rattan queen chair at its head. Luau served a full menu of glorious tropical drinks and "Polynesian" cuisine typical to the era.
There was a sister location, "Luau II" at the nearby Marco Polo Hotel. After the demise of Luau, its name changed to "Gold Coin."
Luau closed around 1974, and the location is now an empty lot.