Welcome to the Entrada

Where Hollywood motel culture is alive and well -- the good, the sad, and the funky

"We're on the same side," Tremblay says about his and the police's cleanup efforts. But he shows sympathy for smaller motels that are more reluctant to expel unseemly guests. "A lot of other motels have a hard time doing that, throwing out someone who's paying 175 bucks a week. They need the money. I know, it happened to us many years ago. We always tried to fight the bad element, but sometimes you just didn't know. Now we're doing well. So we really try to keep this place quiet.

"A lot of people finally realize that it's clean here, it's safe," he adds. "There's no prostitution or drug activity. People are starting to know this now. Plus we're affordable. Guests are going to get a clean and safe place where they can sleep."

More than six million visitors rested their heads on Broward County hotel pillows in 1998. Many of those domestic and international travelers filled up the county's 386 motels, a total of 11,000 rooms and counting. In fact the ratio of motel-to-hotel lodgings in Florida is approximately three to one, mostly because of the rates. Offering rooms for as little as $36 a night during the off-season and as high as $75 a night in the winter, the Entrada is a thoroughly typical Broward County motel.

Owner Steve Tremblay welcomes weary travelers
Joshua Prezant
Owner Steve Tremblay welcomes weary travelers

This summer has been the Entrada's best yet; Tremblay credits his efforts and downtown Hollywood's fledgling renaissance as reasons for his full house. He's looking forward to the completion of the Diplomat Resort and the Marriott's takeover of the Howard Johnson's on Hollywood beach. He's banking on their overflow of guests and conventioneers. He hopes his still-slow lounge business will return the way it was before the Diplomat was demolished in April 1998 and that his battle to keep his motel vice-free will make subsequent summers as profitable as this one.

Veteran bartender Ed Aspen has worked here on and off for nine years, watching employees drift in and out of the Entrada at almost the same pace as its guests. Aspen came in early today to train a new bartender, one he hopes will stick around. (He likes to squeeze in a few rounds of golf in the morning.) "You're lucky if one out of five people work out," he says about today's trainee.

Aspen takes a sip from the glass of ice water he usually has on hand. Jim Burke buys his only fellow patron in the bar a beer. "I'm a soft touch," Burke admits with a modest nod. The sturdy, 62-year-old Aspen leans over and fishes a Bud out of the cooler. He wears suspenders while he works, and they too have Budweiser scrolled across their length.

"I wear them because when you bend over all day, your shirt comes out and you look like a bum," he explains. "I've never come to work without 'em." He pops the top off the longneck before handing it over.

Aspen started his gig at the motel as a lounge regular. Tremblay hired him part-time, but the stint blossomed. "I worked 22 days straight. Good thing he didn't hire me full-time!" he says, laughing. The chortle turns into a cough. It usually does. Aspen has smoked for 50 years, and he's tried everything to quit, even acupuncture. His habit is de rigueur at the lounge; virtually every patron who plunks down in a chair has a pack of smokes close by. Like his boss, Tremblay, Aspen is lamenting the way business at the lounge has tapered off in the past few years.

"Friday nights are still pretty good, but it's slowed down," Aspen says. "This used to be one of the busiest bars in Hollywood. We used to have night workers waiting for us to open the doors. Waitresses, bartenders. They want a drink because it's their nighttime. They'd have a drink in each hand. You couldn't keep up with them!"

Aspen blames some of the bar's struggles on unreliable help and police crackdowns on drunk driving. "It's good, because nobody runs anybody else over, but it's bad for late-night bar-hopping," he says. "People are afraid, and this isn't really a cab kind of town." He should know. Before working at the Entrada, he owned and drove his own cab between Miramar and the beaches. "I got quite an education driving that cab, but I always felt secure taking a customer here. I knew they wouldn't get mugged or have any problems like with the other motels." As if to mark the lounge's glory days, he buys Burke a Bloody Caesar and flicks a pinch of horseradish into it.

Aspen also anticipates an upswing as Hollywood beach hotels are refurbished and downtown begins to flourish. He dreams about setting up a tiki bar by the pool where the bronzed can sip daiquiris, kids can grab a hot dog, and perhaps even a small band can croon a bit of calypso. For now, though, he'll settle for the slow but steady stream of regulars who haunt the lounge like devoted ghosts.

When Burke finishes his drink, he settles his tab and gets up to leave. Except for Aspen there's no one left. The bartender lights a Pall Mall and asks Burke where he's going. "I won't have anybody to talk to," Aspen says with a laugh and a cough.

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