Where is Margaritaville?
In one sense, it's everywhere. It's a state of mind more than a place, that lazy-afternoon-sipping-drinks-and-watching-the-world-go-by feeling that embodies Key West, or at least the Key West that Jimmy Buffett has been singing about for 50 years.
According to Margaritaville's website, it's in the tropics "somewhere between the Port of Indecision and Southwest of Disorder."
In a somewhat more practical sense, it's a multi-billion-dollar global lifestyle brand in the form of Margaritaville-themed stores, hotels, bars, frozen shrimp, restaurants, daiquiri makers, pickleball paddles, beer, water parks, a SiriusXM radio station, luxury resorts, tequila, footwear, chips, salsa, casinos, retirement villages, salad dressing and Buffett’s Coral Reefer THC, all resulting from one man's catchy 1977 hit.
Here's what you need to know about Margaritaville.
How did Jimmy Buffett create the Margaritaville company?
It began, more or less, when someone else tried to. Restaurant chain Chi-Chi's tried to trademark "Margaritaville" as a drink special. Buffett sued, won, and immediately began branding the name everywhere he could.
Buffett opened a few places on his own, such as T-shirt shops and restaurants and then the Margaritaville Cafe in Key West in 1987. But in the 90s he met John Cohlan, then senior vice president of finance at the investment firm that owned Arby’s and Long John Silver’s. The men hit it off and formed a partnership.
Where was the first Margaritaville?
Which one? The first named location from the new company, Margaritaville Holdings, Inc., was the Margaritaville restaurant at the Universal CityWalk in Orlando in 1999.
Buffett licensed the name to a Florida developer to create a $50 million oceanfront hotel in Pensacola in 2010 promising "barefoot elegance," which kicked off the run of Margaritaville luxury hotels.
The first Margaritaville Casino opened in the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in 2011.
The company's flagship Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort opened in 2015 with eight restaurants, 369 rooms and more than 30,000 square feet of event space.
Also in 2015, the Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham opened in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
The Island H2O Live! Water park sprang up in 2019 along with Margaritaville Resort Orlando in Kissimmee.
In 2017, Buffett announced his first retirement community, Latitude Margaritaville, which opened in Daytona Beach. It's limited to residents aged "55 and better."
As of next April, Margaritaville will go mobile and oceanbound when the Port of Palm Beach’s only cruise ship Grand Classica will be renamed the Margaritaville Paradise and the company that owns it, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, will become Margaritaville at Sea.
How much does it cost to live in Margaritaville?
If you want to spend your days nibblin' on sponge cake and watching the sun bake your neighbors, be prepared to cough up, depending on the location, from $230,000 to $420,000 for a home at one of the Latitude Margaritaville communities. But for that you get a roomy cottage-style house, a private 2-3 car garage, landscaping, emergency buttons, and a Town Center.
And a lot of company. Since welcoming its first residents in March 2018, Latitude Margaritaville in Daytona Beach has sold approximately 1,580 homes and now has more than 3,000 residents. And the Panama City Beach location sold almost all of their initial 200 lots as soon as they were offered.
Growing older, not growing up: Latitude Margaritaville Watersound welcomes first residents
Done searching for that shaker of salt?: Tour the new PCB Margaritaville community
What new Margaritaville properties are coming to Florida?
They may have locations around the world, but Margaritaville — with its main office in Orlando — has a special place in its heart for Florida. There are six of the luxury hotels here, two of the retirement communities, and lots of bars. Margaritaville Holdings, Inc. is continually expanding its property footprint here from the Panhandle to the Keys:
In mid-November, Margaritaville Beach House Key West opened on Smathers Beach with 186 suites and a lagoon-style pool.
Construction kicked off in September on a town center at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound, a 55+ community of 3,500 planned homes north of Panama City Beach.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place in August for Margaritaville Beach Resort Fort Myers Beach, which will feature 254 rooms and suites. The resort is scheduled to open in 2023.
In January, Margaritaville opened a 202-room themed oceanfront hotel with restaurants and retail space a few blocks north of Jacksonville Beach Pier.
Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach, a 55-and-older resort community, opened a private beach club in January in Ormond-by-the-Sea.
Near Bradenton, a six-story, 123-room Compass by Margaritaville boutique hotel opened in July 2020 on Anna Maria Sound.
And a Margaritaville complex featuring a hotel, marina, restaurants and a 20,000-square-foot outdoor entertainment venue is planned along the Indian River Lagoon in Melbourne.
Is Margaritaville owned by Disney?
No. The Margaritaville Resort Orlando in Kissimmee is near Walt Disney Worlds and other resorts. But they are part of Disney's Good Neighbor Hotel Program, which means Authorized Disney Vacation Planners are more than happy to help you book your stay there.
Does Jimmy Buffett own the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain?
Cheeseburger in Paradise was a partnership between Buffett's company and OSI Restaurant Partners. Buffett supplied the name, Outback Steakhouse handled the franchising.
He ultimately sold the chain, which by then consisted of 23 locations in 14 states. The new company, Luby's, changed many of them to Fuddruckers Deluxe Bar and Grill, but most of the restaurants were closed by 2014. The last location shut down in September, 2020.
How much does Jimmy Buffet make from Margaritaville?
Cohlan, now Chief Executive Officer of the company, told Bloomberg Businessweek that the company facilitated $1.5 billion in annual sales before COVID, with an estimated 30% drop during the pandemic, although the company declined to provide actual revenue figures.
In 2017, Forbes estimated that Buffett had earned $50.5 million and had a net worth of $550 million from all of his businesses, album sales and tours. He was ranked No. 13 on Forbes' first-ever list of American's Wealthiest Celebrities. He's doing OK.
What is Margaritaville famous for?
Aside from alcohol and steel guitar? Probably the beachhouse vibe in all the properties, even the ones hours away from a beach, or possibly the massive flip-flip statues that greet you as you come in.
What inspired the song "Margaritaville"?
According to music producer Norbert Putnam, it was a bad day in paradise for Jimmy Buffett, who had just finished a tour, spent some time drinking margaritas in a Mexican restaurant in Texas, and then came back to Florida. "One day in the studio, he comes in and starts telling me about a day he had in Key West," Norbert told the music magazine "Sound on Sound." "He was coming home from a bar and he lost one of his flip-flops and he stepped on a beer can top and he couldn't find the salt for his margarita. He says he's writing lyrics to it and I say 'That's a terrible idea for a song.'
"He comes back in a few days later with 'Wasted Away Again In Margaritaville' and plays it and right then everyone knows it's a hit song. Hell, it wasn't a song — it was a movie."
What does it mean to blow out your flip-flop? Does it hurt?
Back in the olden days of the 1970s, flip-flops were usually made of rubber and the thong between your toes would occasionally pop out during hard use or after long wear. And yes, sometimes.
How do I get the Margaritaville song out of my head now?
Contributor: Rick Neale
C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with several newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you informed about the things you care about, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news organization. Read more articles by Chris here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Margaritaville: The worldwide business Jimmy Buffett created from a song