The business that Liberty University head Jerry Falwell Jr. helped a young pool boy get up and running was characterized last year by a Politico reporter as a “gay-friendly flophouse with an on-site liquor store”.
The article, which Politico published under the headline “My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse,” starts with a description of the Miami Hostel, described as “Falwell’s gay-friendly flophouse with an on-site liquor store.” That description is sure to rankle some at Liberty University, the large Christian university with strict rules for students about sex and alcohol.
Reporter Brandon Ambrosino, a Liberty alumnus who in 2013 detailed his experience being gay at Liberty, determined a limited liability corporation had purchased the hostel in February of 2013 for $4.65 million. He traced the LLC’s article of incorporation to the house in Virginia that Trey Falwell would eventually buy in 2015 and determined that Falwell was listed as sole manager of the company.
A source for the story told Ambrosino that Falwell Jr. provided funding for the purchase but has had no involvement in the business otherwise.
Ambrosino stayed at the hostel, and wrote some colorful anecdotes about finding an advertisement there for an adult cabaret boasting of “full nudity.” He contrasted the property, with its liquor store, to liberty’s restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, co-ed sleeping arrangements and “homosexual conduct.”
Liberty University responded last year with a statement defending the business venture:
“The fact is that Trey and his business partner, Giancarlo Granda, identified a distressed property in Miami Beach, which they purchased with bank financing at a very opportune time in a location that has seen significant new developments as a result of extensive infrastructure upgrades and investments by the City of Miami Beach including a new hospital across the street,” it said. “The property was recently independently appraised by the bank that financed the property, and the value has increased by almost 40 percent in just 4-1/2 years.
“One of the pre-existing tenants in the property is one of the highest rated restaurants in Miami Beach and the youth hostel has always been highly rated as well,” it continued. “Of course, the whole point of a youth hostel is to provide a place for young people to stay for around $25 per night. The hostel has actually never sold alcohol -- the only 'bar' in the hostel that is really a counter for eating.
“Another pre-existing tenant with a long-term lease happens to be a liquor store,” the statement continued. “Liberty University’s endowment owns several shopping centers and the board has never had a policy that prohibits the leasing of space to tenants who sell alcohol. Those shopping centers do have a Japanese Restaurant with a bar and two grocery stores that sell beer and wine.”