His company has worked with private equity firms like LaSalle
Capital Group Hotel Properties and has been involved with such hotel chains as Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and the Four Seasons. He also played a role in the launch of Cain Luxe Nightclub, which closed in 2010, and then again with owner Jamie Mulholland with the opening GoldBar.
“I was handling all of their real estate transactions, and that’s how we ended up collaboratively, collectively buying Surf Lodge together,” he said.
In its previous incarnation, Surf Lodge was a “dysfunctional” hotel that featured an after-hours lushing club.
After he and his team of partners spent $5 million for the property, they spent eight weeks renovating the place (under the design direction of Robert McKinley, another partner of Kamali’s in the design). He brought on Sam Talbot, a semifinalist in the second season of Bravo’s Top Chef. The concept proved successful, despite a few minor municipal headaches (it racked up 700 pending code violations throughout its young career).
The business was sold in April to Michael Walrath, a tech entrepreneur.
“I think Surf Lodge did so much for my career and my business, and it parlayed into various other deals because of it,” Mr. Kamali said. He would not specify how much the property was sold for. The new ownership group went on to pay $100,000 to settle 100 violations.
“In certain instances, situations arise where you get an offer that seems incredibly enticing, and you decide at the end of the day that you would like to take the money off the table,” he said.
Mr. Kamali still has a presence in the East End: He partnered with W South Beach’s David Edelstein and Jackie Mansfield to buy and reposition the Capri Hotel, which now features a Nobu restaurant and a Cynthia Rowley shop. He also has a hand in Ruschmeyer’s, a “nautical sleepaway camp”-inspired hotel/restaurant concept in Montauk.
“Opportunity breeds opportunity. The moment you do one thing, everybody wants to talk to you,” he said. “As long as you can create value for them, they’ll keep coming back.”