Thursday, March 11, 2010

Versace Mansion is Now Villa by Barton G

First it was Casa Casuarina, then Amsterdam Palace, then a bohemian artist colony, then a run down villa for Miami Vice scenes of drug raids, then Versace mansion, and now....

Reincarnated more times than Cher, John McCain, and other big names that continually breathe new life, the Versace Mansion is now the Villa by Barton G.

Local dining connoisseurs will instantly recognize the name of dining/event impresario Barton G Weiss of the Barton G restaurant in South Beach.

Known for his flamboyant presentation style (he serves a macaroni and cheese dish in a mousetrap), Weiss was once the caterer for the Versace mansion several years ago and departed in 2006. Times have changed since the owner, Peter Loftin, turned it into a private club for a $50,000 yearly fee and later brought in prominent attorney Scott Rothstein to run operations. Rothstein, is now awaiting a prison sentence for a $1 billion ponzi scheme. Loftin is still majority owner and the United States of Amerca is 9.99 percent owner since it froze Rothstein's assets.

For those of you who took my tour in last three months and vividly recall the train of trucks and promenade of workers, this confirms the mansion was being refurbished and Weiss has spent more than $1 million cleaning, repairing and bring out the luster in a grungy mosaic floor. "We even used toothbrushes for some finer areas", said Weiss in a recent interview.

Instead of heading in Rothstein's direction of a"Hugh Hefner party palace" with plans for a nightclub, Weiss envisions the opulent mansion as a refined hotelier, elegant restaurant, and lavish event space. Versace's Roman-style suite will rent for $5,000 a night. In another room favored by Madonna, it's unknown what the room with golden heads of Roman Gods looking out from chandeliers, and a signature Medusa dominating the tile pattern floow will rent for.

But Weiss's new Food and Beverage director warns Villa by Barton G will not be the hot spot for typical "wannabes". It will be for the people who actually are.

Weiss once worked as a costume designer in New York before moving to Miami the late 1990's. Now he has applied his talent and palette to the famous (or infamous) Ocean Drive mansion and made it reminiscent of Versace--fashionable but on the edge.

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