Space Coast motel goes nude in desperate attempt to survive post-Shuttle economy crash

screengrab: Fawlty Towers Resort website

Cocoa Beach is a Florida town where the economy was for decades buoyed by the NASA Space Shuttle program. Astronauts, aerospace contractors, service workers, and their families all made their way to communities like this one along the "space coast," near Kennedy Space Center.

I traveled to Cocoa Beach a few times last year with Miles O'Brien, Kate Tobin, and the SpaceFlightNow crew, for the final shuttle launches. Press and fans swooped in around those launches like migratory birds. Everyone in town—donut shops, cigar stores, restaurants, strip bars, and, of course, hotels—everyone depended on the space industry for their livelihoods.

But now, the shuttle program is gone. Property values and many of those small locally-owned businesses have tanked. It's a huge bummer. There are big-picture ways to tell this story, but sometimes, smaller stories tell it best.

So here's one: the owner of a garish, hot pink motel along the Cocoa Beach strip called Fawlty Towers (after the excellent British comedy series starring John Cleese) is relaunching the joint as a nudist resort.

I remember driving by this place with Miles and his crew, snickering at the name and the paint job, and wondering if we'd encounter Basil, Sybil, Polly, or Manuel if we stopped in.

From the Fawlty Towers Resort website update:

Our culture and values at Fawlty Towers shall remain the same, creating a warm and friendly environment, based on very simple principles. As of May 2012 we will promote family oriented nudism, which shall be wholesome and non-sexual. Single males must qualify to visit according to our singles policy. ( Please call ahead) All members of AANR or other nudist clubs or organizations are always welcome. If you choose to visit Fawlty Towers you are accepting these core principles and are agreeing to abide by them.

We offer a private, relaxing, safe, non-threatening, non-sexual, clothing optional environment where our guest can relax and feel comfortable.

This being socially-conservative Florida, not everyone is happy about that plan. Snip from WFTV report:

"Young people surf on that beach. What kind of a message is that sending them? It's inappropriate," said Merritt Island resident Jeannette Smith.

Some of the more prudish locals are exploring legal options.

But for now: the clothing is off, and bookings are up.

Full coverage (heh) of this story in the news: Brevard Times, Florida Today, Orlando TV, Reuters, Central Florida News 13.

(Though it's hard for me to believe, I know that some of you reading this blog post will not have seen the television series after which this motel is named. You should take care of that.)