The Untold Truth Of Margaritaville

Do you feel that? A warm, island breeze is blowing your way. Luckily, you have a cold cerveza in your hand to cool you down — no shoes required. Life is good. You may be asking yourself: Where exactly am I? You're in Margaritaville, baby — it's much more a state of mind than an actual place. It's a place where you've accepted your troubles — maybe even buried them in the sand — but you know everything is going to be okay. 

The genius behind the 1977 hit, Jimmy Buffet, capitalized on that attitude and ran with it, and Margaritaville is now an empire. After beginning with just one restaurant in the mid 1980's, the brand has since grown to restaurants all over the world, beer, tequila, frozen food, lounge wear, resorts, a radio station, casinos, and even a retirement community — yes, you can retire in Margaritaville (more on that to come). 

With devoted fans known as 'parrot heads',' it is of no surprise that Jimmy Buffet, thanks to his sprawling empire and a dose of some creative genius, is worth a reported half a billion dollars. Since "it's five o'clock somewhere," there would be no better time to explore the untold truth of Margaritaville. 

Margaritaville: The song that began it all...

It may be hard to believe, but this massive lifestyle brand and hospitality giant all began with a little song back in 1977 — with origins that may surprise you. 

With talks of flip flops, oil, and tourists, you may think the inspiration had to have struck Jimmy Buffet while he was lounging on a beach somewhere. But according to Wide Open Country, the Country Music Association Single of the Year-nominated song was actually dreamt up in Austin, Texas. Far from a beach, Buffet was dining at the then Lung's Cocina del Sur and imbibing on, shall we say, a tequila forward frozen concoction. The drink lacked a salted rim, which got Buffet thinking about that lost shaker of salt.

The idea stuck with him, and Buffet began writing it while still in Austin visiting a friend's house. With the concept still in its early stages, Buffet then heads to Key West, where he had quite a night. Coming home from a bar, he lost one of his flip-flops, and decided that needed to be part of the story as well. 

His producer was hesitant at first, but when Buffet spewed out the line "Wasted Away Again in Margaritaville" they knew they had a massive hit on their hands. It went on to top Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and have the staying power to eventually land him a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame many years later. (And all we get when we drink is a hangover.)

There are now over 30 Margaritaville restaurants worldwide

Jimmy Buffet quickly took notice of the movement that began with the 1977 release of Margaritaville. Fans not only loved it, but they wanted to live out that lifestyle lamented in the popular rack. Key West was naturally the perfect place for Buffet to further tap into his market, and in 1985 the first successful Margaritaville opened as a retail concept, and it remains to this day.

Owned and operated by Margaritaville Holdings LLC, there were initially only three small restaurants operating in Key West and Jamaica. The then CEO of Margaritaville Holdings, John Cohlan, saw something much grander. In 1999, the company licensed a 20,000 square-foot-space at Universal Orlando Florida's City Walk and it instantly began a smash success.

They have now expanded to over 30 locations around the, world. In addition to a number of spots in the United States, they have locations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, and even in Australia and even operate a number of restaurants in airports. One foot inside a Margaritaville restaurant and you'll feel like you're instantly transported into the song. With palm trees galore and larger than life frozen concoction machines, they fully embrace the lifestyle in their décor. Their menu features standard American fare with some tropical influences and, of course, several varieties of Margaritas and frozen drinks from the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar.

Margaritaville also owns Landshark Bar & Grill

While Jimmy Buffet was once sponsored by Corona, it was only natural to expand his empire with beverages since they were the inspiration for so many of his songs and a pivotal focal point of the lifestyle. Brewed by Anheuser-Busch, LandShark is another brainchild from Buffet and his team. After receiving a 'no' from the powers at be from Corona whey proposing to start their own beer in partnership, they sought after Anheuser-Busch who was in the market to compete with the success of Corona.

In partnership with Anheuser-Busch, LandShark Lager, then called Lone Palm Lager, launched in 2006 under the Margaritaville Brewing label. The success of the beer lead to the eventual creation of Landshark Bar and Grills. Similar to Margaritaville, these restaurants embrace the lifestyle of Parrot Heads and feature specialty margaritas and an expansive menu of burgers, salads, and seafood. Smaller than the Margaritaville chain, there are just under 20 LandShark Bar & Grills around the country, with most of them residing in beach towns like Pensacola Beach, Hollywood Beach, and Jacksonville Beach.

Margaritaville has its own line of spirits

It was the year 2000 and Jimmy Buffet's company was now operating a lot of square footage thanks to his ever-expanding Margaritaville restaurants. It was now time to captivate the palates of the many visitors frequenting these new spots. The launch of LandShark lager proved to be a success, and Margaritaville Holdings charged forward with a new partnership with beverage giant Seagrams Spirits & Wine Group, who also happened to own MCA, Buffet's label at the time.

They wasted little time and launched Margaritaville Tequila in 2000. At an affordable price point, their line of tequila is distilled from blue agave in Jalisco, Mexico. The line features both gold and silver tequila and has since expanded to rum, ready-to-serve margaritas as well as a line of ready-to-serve "skinny" margaritas. The most devoted of Parrot Heads can impress from their at-home bar with the Margaritaville Bahamas Frozen Concoction Maker that can whip up three 36-ounce pitchers of your beverage of choice at a time.

Remember Cheeseburger in Paradise Bar & Grill?

For as much success as Jimmy Buffet has had, there were some bumps along the way. Rarely talked about, the very first attempt at a Margaritaville restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama, which opened in 1984, was a flop and closed a few years later. In 2002, as Margaritaville was rapidly expanding, Buffet sought after another restaurant venture. This time, he would partner with Outback Steakhouse to develop the casual restaurant concept, Cheeseburger in Paradise, which was inspired by another one of his major hit songs.

The first Cheeseburger in Paradise opened in the outskirts of Indianapolis, Indiana and featured classic American fare and a selection of frozen tropical drinks. In operation for nearly 20 years, the small restaurant chained operated locations throughout the United States, including Kansas City, Kansas, and Pasadena, Maryland. 

In 2009, Cheeseburger in Paradise was sold to the Paradise Restaurant Group, with Jimmy Buffet being downgraded to a small royalty partner. Luby's Restaurant Group would later purchase the chain in 2012 and therefore dissolving Buffet's association with the chain completely. After the last acquisition, many of the restaurants were rebranded to Fuddruckers Deluxe Bar and Grill. By 2018, there were only two remaining locations left, and the last location, in Secaucus, New Jersey, would close its doors for good in 2020.

Margaritaville has taken off as a lifestyle brand

If we haven't made it abundantly clear, Margaritaville is much more than a song or a restaurant — it's a way of life. With captivated spenders, Jimmy Buffet was ready and willing to give the people what they wanted. And we're talking a lot of people.

 It's estimated that over 20 million people visit a Margaritaville each year. The next step would include dressing the part of the lifestyle. The global Margaritaville brand has expanded in the apparel department with clothing, swimwear, and footwear.

Looking to spruce up your own joint? You can even give your home a Margaritaville makeover with their line of home décor bringing the island life right to you. In 2015, Margaritaville Enterprises partnered with Home Shopping Network exclusively for a new line of culinary, home, electronics, beauty and apparel products. Through the new distribution platform, Margaritaville would be able to reach even more people. You no longer needed to leave the couch to embrace the Margaritaville attitude.

The Margaritaville brand expanded to hotels in 2010

For a true immersive experience, the Margaritaville brand started by Jimmy Buffet expanded to hotels in 2010. It was first attempted in 200 with the idea for a Margaritaville Casino Resort in Mississippi, but due to the recession in the United States, the construction was immediately halted and plans were scrapped. The first successful launch of the hotel brand opened in 2010. The Margaritaville Beach Hotel, located on Pensacola Beach, sits smack dab right on the white sand beaches of the gulf on Florida's panhandle.

Margaritaville tapped one of the nation's leading hospitality management companies, Davidson Hotels & Resorts, to run many of their concepts. They've gone on to successfully open more hotels including in Hollywood, Florida; Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, and one West Coast location aptly situated in the heart of Palm Springs, California — with more to come. They currently operate 24 resorts across six countries, including an all-inclusive concept in Cancun, Mexico.

In 2011, Margaritaville casinos arrived

While the original plans for a Margaritaville Casino were scrapped, Jimmy Buffet's company did eventually go on to see that idea come to fruition. The brand took a role of the dice in 2011 when the first Margaritaville Casino opened up at the Flamingo Las Vegas

The 15,000 square foot casino features the Five O'Clock Somewhere Bar and plenty of atmosphere, including palm trees, to instantly transport you to the island mentality. Gaining national attention, they celebrated the launch with a boozy publicity stunt by setting the Guinness World Record for the world's largest margarita when they created an 8,500-gallon cocktail featuring over 2,000 gallons of tequila. Ay, caramba!

The island-style casinos have since expanded to Bossier City, Louisiana, with smaller concepts at existing casino properties, including the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Margaritaville recently launched its first urban concept

While the Margaritaville lifestyle embraces the carefree mindset of Island life, Jimmy Buffet's brand is hoping to bring that laid-back attitude where it is needed most: to the hustle and bustle of major cities. The first urban concept for the hotel brand, which is operated by Davidson Hotels & Resorts, opened in Nashville, Tennessee in 2019. Located in the heart of the city's downtown, Margaritaville Hotel Nashville is an oasis of a property, with a tranquil rooftop pool and relaxation space as well as new dining concept, Fins Bar, an open-air full-service bar and restaurant. 

The property also houses Radio Margaritaville's Music City studio, which allows visitors to peak into the inner workings of the brand's SIRIUS XM channel. The Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham occupies several levels of the high rise and the lobby play's host to the brand's higher end dining concept and ode to James (Jimmy) William Buffet, JWB Grill.

Things are looking up as the brand is tackling the big apple for their second urban concept. Located in one of the most coveted and sought-after real estate locations in the world, Margaritaville Resort Times Square is currently under construction and is set to combine luxury with the fun and vibrancy that the Margaritaville brand is known for.

You can literally retire in Margaritaville

If you've fully embraced the lifestyle and mentality of a Parrot Head, you can take things one step further by retiring in Margaritaville. No, not that state of mind we've been talking about — this is an actual retirement community, aptly named Latitude Margaritaville

Buffet set his sites on the popular retirement destination of Florida for this next venture. The $1 billion dollar project opened its doors in Daytona Beach with over 7,000 homes available in the low six-figures. The property, fit for the aging Parrot Head, features spas, multiple resort-style pools, recreational activities, food and beverage concepts, and even an on-site shuttle ready to bring you on over to the beach.

We couldn't think of a better way to watch the sun bake for the rest of our days. Many agree, considering the brand has since announced two more Latitude Margaritaville properties slated for the near future in Hilton Head, South Carolina and Watersound, Florida. As they say, "it's a sweet life, living by the salty sea."

There was a fictional Margaritaville in Jurassic World

Margaritaville will without a doubt have a lasting power for generations to come. Even if the popularity of the restaurants and hotels fade, it has been forever cemented on the big screen. The 2015 blockbuster smash, Jurassic World, featured an appearance from none other than Jimmy Buffet himself. Thanks to a longstanding friendship with the movie's producer Frank Marshall, visitors of the fictitious Isla Nublar could partake in frosty margaritas while escaping the dinosaurs at a Margaritaville. In the movie, the scene hilariously depicts Buffet attempting to keep his margarita safe as dinosaurs wreak havoc and terrorize the park. His priorities were clearly in order!

According to Cinema Blend, the booze was flowing for extras who appeared in Isla Nublar's Margaritaville — in order to maintain artistic integrity, of course. Talk about a lot to drink about.