1450 Collins Avenue is an Art Deco structure in the Nautical Moderne style that has had many lives. With wave-like designs and vertical images it evokes the feeling of a ship’s smokestacks or funnel. Designed by Henry Hohauser, it opened on December 24th, 1940 as the popular eatery “Hoffman’s Cafeteria”, ready to accommodate 500 customers. Most of the establishment was a self-service one but a portion of it was a restaurant. Excluding the years 1942-1945, when Hoffman’s became an Army Mess Hall, it continued serving original Eastern European Jewish dishes into the 70’s.
In 1975, the building underwent a metamorphosis to become “Warsaw Ballroom”, a dance hall for the senior citizen crowd. In 1986, after being closed for five years, it re-opened as a high end supper club called “Ovo at the Warsaw Ballroom”. In 1987, it changed ownership again and became “The China Club”, which served Chinese food and played eclectic rock and roll music to try and attract a younger crowd. It was also equipped with an addition of a 2,500 gallon shark tank with two three foot sharks. However, this club was not long lasting as it failed to compete with the popular disco and Latin music of other clubs.
In 1988, it transformed itself again into the iconic “Warsaw Ballroom”, which this time drew a young hip crowd who craved all night parties with no limits. Those wild parties included Battle of the Bods Competitions, Underwear Parties, Foam Parties, Belly Dancers, Flame Throwers, Drag Queens, Gangsters, Ravers and the first unisex bathrooms in Miami Beach. Even Gianni Versace hosted parties at Warsaw, solely for fun and not profit. Dancing the night away until dawn, a popular saying back then was, “We came. We saw. We Warsaw”. Sadly, the last party at this hot spot was in 1999.
In 2000, it was to be again transformed into a 24/7 European-style restaurant called “Jerry’s Famous Deli”, opened by the Starkmans, owners of the Rascal House in 1997. At Jerry’s they served up “mile-high” corned beef, pastrami, and brisket kosher style sandwiches until 2014. In 2015, ownership changed hands again into the chain Senor Frog’s Restaurant, serving up a Mexican menu. This restaurant has been closed since 2020 due to Covid. How many out there have memories of eating or partying at this location?