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Lotus, Daytona Beach, FL (restaurant)

Pages: 1 20 replies

Street:308 Seabreeze Blvd
City:Daytona Beach


Well would you take a look at this one! Found this ad from the Lotus Restaurant in Daytona Beach while surfing the net.

Check out that door handle!

The Tikis look like they may have been done by Lewis Van Dercar who did the ones at the Luau in Miami Beach.

A new research project for Tiki Tom D


I love the door handle and those moais!


DC, your urban achaeological powers are extraordinary!

I accept the assignment.

For starters, I ran across this old postcard postmarked 1955 at the same address, but with "& Laney's Supper Club" appended to the name (very low resolution picture)...



Here's a slightly clearer version of the postcard posted above...

DC, this assignment turns out to be interesting in unexpected ways... the Lotus has connections, however tenuous, to a famous Florida novelist, the origin of stock car racing in Daytona Beach, murder, suicide, a contested will, lewd and lascivious dancing, and even Ellinor Village... recall that shopping center where the Tropics was located. More to come...


Wow, what have you guys been up to while I was away on Tiki duty!? Another possible Van Dercar wackiness? Very cool!

Very Cool guys, but am I seeing things or is that a huge clam shell-ish mask hiding in the second B+W photo? If so it's amazing and bizarre I've never seen anything like it.
Amazing work,


That giant Clam Shell mask is what instantly made me think that these pieces had to have been done by Lewis Van Dercar.

By the way, I got your Tikiyaki mug and it is sweet, on of my favorites.

Tiki Tom D, look forward to hearing more about the stories you uncovered on this place.


Not trying to steal any of Tom's thunder....but Yuk Ping Lee, owner of the Lotus in Daytona recently passed. Obit:


Edit: Apparently she wasn't the original owner.... as she imigrated to the US in 1970.

[ Edited by: howlinowl 2011-07-27 15:32 ]


Sven, glad you’re back! Some of us have been up to no good in your absence.

Howlinowl, I did run across that obituary and agree, Yuk Ping Lee was not the original owner/operator of the Lotus Restaurant. I know who that was, another member of the extended Lee family. But, I'll get to that... it's just been a real busy week for me at the rocket ranch and next will be busier... It's good to know you're still hanging out with us at Tiki Central.

When I first started cranking through the search engines on the Lotus Restaurant, it looked to be a successful, though otherwise unremarkable Cantonese-American restaurant except for those really terrific exterior tikis of DC’s post.

Then I came across an article in the entertainment section of a local newspaper stating that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings had once visited a “Charlie’s High Hat Bar” where the Lotus Restaurant now was. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was a famous Florida author best known for her 1938 novel, The Yearling. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 and later was made into an Academy Award-winning 1946 movie starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal March 16, 1988

A few tweaks on the search engine revealed that “Charlie’s High Hat Bar” was also known as Charlie’s Grill & Cocktail Bar or Charlie’s Grill & Hi-Hat Club. The place was operated by Charles (Charlie) J. Reese and was so successful that it made Reese quite wealthy. It started in the 1930s. The Volusia County Property Appraiser’s database indicates the building at 308 Seabreeze Boulevard was constructed in 1932. This original building still stands although there have been several renovations.

There is a great vintage linen postcard for Charlie’s Grill & Cocktail Bar...

You can even find this as a stock image at AllPosters.com (http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Charlie-s-Grill-and-Cocktail-Bar-Posters_i6080076_.htm).

Here are some newspaper ads from over the years...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal July 12, 1938

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 11, 1942

Daytona Beach Morning Journal April 4, 1946

Charlie Reese as a business promoter and leader...

Sarasota Herald-Tribune June 12, 1936

Some clients of Charlie’s Hi-Hat Club (upstairs)...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal July 22, 1939

A new national cabaret tax impacts Charlie’s...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 30, 1944

But for the joint efforts of Bill France and Charlie Reese, stock car racing at Daytona Beach might have withered away in its infancy...

Historic Survey Update Report for the Surfside Historic District, The City of Daytona Beach, Florida February 8, 2011

The Free Lance-Star June 21, 1977

Next, changing fortunes at the Hi-Hat Club...


Howlinowl, I did run across that obituary and agree, Yuk Ping Lee was not the original owner/operator of the Lotus Restaurant. I know who that was, another member of the extended Lee family. But, I'll get to that... it's just been a real busy week for me at the rocket ranch and next will be busier... It's good to know you're still hanging out with us at Tiki Central.

Yep, I'm still lurking. I rarely have much if anything worthwhile to post, but I like poking 'round and seeing what new stuff pops up. Glad your still busy at the ranch. Kinda unfortunate that they're discontinuing the shuttle. I'm sure they'll still be launching unmanned rockets with satellites aboard.....at least the military ones.

Interesting about the France/Reese/NASCAR connection. Wonder how many Naacar fans know about Reese?



Howlinowl: NASA will be launching a planetary spacecraft next week from the Cape on one of our rockets. For the immediate future, our manned spaceflight program consists of sending NASA Astronauts on airplane rides to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for launching to the International Space Station on Soyuz spacecraft. As our Russian colleagues have declared, it’s the “Age of the Soyuz.” At this point in time, I’m compelled by the facts to agree with them. Let’s wish our Commercial Crew Development contractors every success, and pray that they get it right while not wasting any time. Now, back to topic...

The fortunes of the Hi-Hat Club underwent a dramatic change when a young, out-of-town gangster shot a Daytona Beach city police detective to death on January 13, 1945. Two employees of the Hi-Hat Club were in the car with the killer, but got out and fled on foot, with one subsequently reporting the murder to police. Thus began a real-life noir mystery regarding the motivations, actions and fate of Charlie Reese...

Photo of Detective Harry Raines

The Palm Beach Post January 15, 1945

Daytona Beach Morning Journal January 16, 1945

Wilbur Paul Patterson (aka Pat Harris) was captured by FBI agents in Omaha, Nebraska on January 30, 1945. He was already a wanted, career criminal with a half-dozen aliases. His crimes included kidnapping, rape and multiple robberies in different states. He was wanted for rape and robbery in Belleville, Illinois and armed robbery in Detroit. According to police records, he was on bond from a robbery charge in West Palm Beach at the time of the slaying.

The Miami News February 11, 1945

Strange happenings followed concerning Charlie Reese...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal February 13, 1945

On March 5, 1945, Charlie Reese was found dead in his home from a gunshot to the head. His death was ultimately ruled a suicide, but many believed it was a murder cast to look like suicide...

The Miami News March 6, 1945

Testimony revealed that Charlie Reese and other Hi-Hat Club employees aided Patterson’s getaway, but it wasn’t clear from the news reports how much Reese knew of the crime at the time...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 22, 1945

St. Petersburg Times March 23, 1945

Patterson was convicted by a jury and sentenced to die in the electric chair. He was executed on March 17, 1947. In the first article that follows, doubts of some about how Charlie Reese died are recapped...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 11, 1947

Sarasota Herald-Tribune March 17, 1947

Charlie’s teenage daughter, Betty Jean Reese, eventually filed a lawsuit denying the validity of her father’s will...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 18, 1947

With the estate, including the Hi-Hat Club, back into probate, it’s time for a break...


[ Edited by: TikiTomD 2011-07-28 14:16 ]

Whoa! I finally had time to sit down and read this! Amazing, dramatic story. Didn't know Daytona Beach was such a wild turf. That whole suicide thing smells fishy to me. What was the session with state attorney Sams about? Was Reese gonna blow the whistle on some higher ups if he wouldn't get protection? What did his brother Johnny know?

What the duece????

Reese killed himself or was murdered in '45...or did he "die unexpectedly in '40"??

Did they get the year wrong in this article?? I guess a murder or suicide could be ruled as "dying unexpectedly".



P.S. edited to fix link in article (i think this is the 3rd post i've edited today....time to take a break)....

[ Edited by: howlinowl 2011-07-28 14:32 ]


Howlinowl, you've got good eyes. Yes, the city historic district report has a typographic error on the year of Charlie Reese's demise (actual 1945, not 1940). Here's another condensed version of the story from another source...



Bigbrotiki, this noir mystery needs a good PI to make sense of it... that pre-Grand Jury robbery tale is also very strange. I’m no forensics expert, but I just can’t get past the physics of this:

If we assume suicide, Charlie would most certainly have been holding the gun in his right hand for the bullet to have entered his right temple and exited the left side of his head. How then did the gun get jammed against his left thigh? Newtonian mechanics just don’t argue for this post-mortem arrangement...


Picking up the story again, Charlie Reese’s will, filed several days after he was found shot to death at his home, placed his brother Johnny’s attorney in charge of administering the estate. In 1948, Charlie’s Grill and Hi-Hat Club was leased to Ken Shepard by the estate administrator, becoming the Club Pier Casino and Shepard’s Hi-Hat Club. Here’s an ad from the news archives for the new business...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 17, 1949

In the meantime, a lawsuit contesting the will’s validity, filed by Charlie’s daughter Betty Jean Reese, continued to wind its way through the court system. Finally, about a year and a half after filing the lawsuit, Betty Jean won her case in Circuit Court...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 16, 1949

But it didn’t end there... Charlie’s brother, his brother’s attorney and his mother appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. In early 1950, the appeal was dismissed at the request of the litigants...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal January 4, 1950

As soon as Betty Jean and her mother regained control of the estate, alleged theft and embezzlement by the tenant of the Hi-Hat Club came to a dramatic climax...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal January 27, 1950

Next, a Chinese immigrant from Hong Kong and a US Navy veteran from WWII remake the old Hi-Hat Club...


Jeeeez, talk a bout bad mana attached to a place!


In 1948, 39-year old Jimmie Kam Sun Lee immigrated to the Daytona Beach area from Hong Kong. He was born in Canton, China, according to his 1971 obituary. Jimmie Lee opened the doors of the Lotus Restaurant as owner-operator in 1950 at 308 Seabreeze Boulevard, on the ground floor of the building formerly hosting Charlie’s Grill & Hi-Hat Club and most recently Club Pier Casino & Shepard’s Hi-Hat Club.

Jimmie Lee Photo from Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal August 16, 1971

Various newspaper articles also cite an opening in 1951 or 1952, but I believe the following “Honor Roll” ad of Daytona Beach area restaurants seems a reasonable basis to call it 1950. Recall that Betty Jean Reese and her Mom swore out arrest warrants for the former leaseholder and his associates at the beginning of 1950. If Jimmie Lee was already in the area, perhaps with a restaurant business already established elsewhere in Daytona Beach, it seems reasonable that he could be in place by the end of 1950...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal June 24, 1961

Here are several other ads over the years...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal February 8, 1961

Daytona Beach Morning Journal October 6, 1964

Several observations from these ads: Notice that Maine Lobster was featured at the Lotus; it was also featured in the 1948 ad for Charlie’s Grill & Hi-Hat Club (a coincidence?). The 1961 Lotus ad indicated that it was the only Chinese restaurant in Daytona Beach, whereas the 1964 ad omitted that claim. In each case, the cocktail lounge was featured. Sadly, I have not run across the drink menu.

This article indicates that by 1962 Jimmie Lee was joined or succeeded by Wei Lee (okay, it says Lee Wei, but I have more sources that indicate the name was reversed in the article), presumably a family member, in the running and operation of the restaurant...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal June 23, 1962

Note that “the chef is also imported.” :) But no mention of tikis in the restaurant decorations...

In 1971, Jimmie Lee, age 62, passed away at the local Halifax Hospital. The obituary cited numerous survivors living in the area.

What about upstairs at the old Hi-Hat Club? In 1942, Maurice Laney of Sumter, South Carolina moved to the Daytona Beach area at age 16. According to his obituary, he was born in Camden, South Carolina and served with the US Navy in World War II (would have been very young), returning in 1946. He founded Laney’s Supper Club, located upstairs above the Lotus Restaurant according to those vintage postcards captioned as “Lotus Restaurant & Laney’s Supper Club.” It’s not at all clear what the business arrangement was between Laney’s and the Lotus, though food and cocktails for the club had to have been made at the Lotus as there were no separate kitchen and bar upstairs.

Laney’s Supper Club treated guests to entertainment, as this article recalls...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal March 15, 1980

The entertainment at Laney’s apparently peaked in 1953...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal April 1, 1953

Daytona Beach Morning Journal May 13, 1953

Martian-tiki, could sure use your help here in acquiring a visual of Miss Starr and her “curvaceous” features!

Laney’s Supper Club continued to operate until 1963. Maurice Laney passed away in 1988 at age 62, achieving the same age as Jimmie Lee, founder of the Lotus Restaurant.

Next, the Lotus Restaurant (Lee family) spawns more Chinese restaurants around Volusia County...



In perusing the archival data, I was amazed at the ever-expanding cast of characters cited for their role in the Lotus Restaurant... all part of the extended family of Lee. Each enjoyed a role as owner-operator and/or chef while bringing the succeeding generations into the business, subsequently retiring or moving on to a new restaurant. An example follows, though it’s not the entirety of it.

In 1972, Wei Lee, then owner of the Lotus Restaurant, embarked on the construction of a new Chinese restaurant to be called the Hong Kong. It was to be located north of the Ellinor Village Shopping Center. This was the same shopping center that hosted the Tropics, explored in the Julian’s thread of this forum. Wei’s grandson, Chong Fu Lee, was to be a principal. The Golden Phoenix restaurant group was a business partner, helping to underwrite the estimated $500,000 cost of construction. This group comprised a successful association of Chinese restaurants along the Gulf coast of Florida, as well as Washington, DC, with the flagship Golden Phoenix at St. Petersburg...

St. Petersburg Times December 17, 1969

Here’s the local newspaper article announcing the coming of the Hong Kong...

Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal October 8, 1972

The Hong Kong opened in 1973...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal January 20, 1973

Meanwhile, back at the Lotus Restaurant, Tim Lee, a grandson of one of the original founders, had taken over operations...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal January 27, 1979

In 1974, Wei Lee retired to Hollywood, Florida. He passed away at age 66 in December, 1987 at the Pembroke Pines General Hospital. His obituary cited his former ownership of both the Lotus and Hong Kong Restaurants, and noted his many surviving family members.

The Lotus Restaurant continued in business until 1987, when the remaining family operating it acquired and moved on to an existing restaurant in Deland, renaming it the New China Restaurant...

The Daytona Beach News-Journal September 16, 1987

As howlinowl previously posted, Yuk Ping Lee, a matriarch within the Lee family cited above as a part owner, just passed away in July, 2011 at age 81...

Late Saturday afternoon while in Daytona Beach with my family, I decided to pay a visit to 308 Seabreeze Boulevard, site of the former Lotus Restaurant. It was just before sunset, and I parked along the boulevard a block east of the location, then walked. This is an old business neighborhood in a funkier section of Daytona Beach, though I didn’t feel threatened at all. Nevertheless, my wife insisted that my son, a third degree Black Belt in martial arts, escort dear old incompetent Dad. Actually, I rather liked the location, a few blocks west of the ocean and just east of the Seabreeze Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. There’s a beautiful old coquina stone church a block south on the eastbound lane of Seabreeze. Here’s the view looking west...

A brief walk and there it was, 308 Seabreeze...

Of course, no tikis were to be seen. It’s the same old building constructed back in 1932, recast as a sports bar known as Frank’s Front Row. One reviewer who went by the moniker “Big Kahuna” (pretty sure it’s not our TC Big Kahuna) offered this description of Frank’s at http://daytonatikifinder.com/2011/04/19/franks-front-row/...

One of the places locals know to go to, Frank’s also is a great place for people from out of town that are looking for a place with a more rock and roll atmosphere. There are drinks at the huge bar, pool tables and lots and lots of live music. Just a couple blocks off the beach, this is a place worth spending a little time off the beach for.

I always have a great time at Frank’s and we always include this place on our loop up and down Seabreaze Blvd. After expanding into the space next door a few years ago they are even better than ever. There is always plenty of live local music at Franks and I have been to some awesome concerts by nationally known acts there as wall. I would call this one of the last real rock and roll bars left in the city and being a big supporter of local music I try to support Frank’s Front Row as much as possible.

So if you are looking for a great Daytona Beach bar with a rock and roll attitude, get off the strip and take a walk on the wild side of Daytona. Head on west on Seabreaze until you find Frank’s Front Row.

Here’s an interior photo by the owner...

The upstairs area, scene of the old Hi-Hat Club and later Laney’s Supper Club, appeared to be vacant. I took a last look and photo. As I was leaving, I gave a respectful tip of the hat in the direction of upstairs, should the ghost of Charlie Reese be peering down...

Next, tiki connections at the Lotus Restaurant...



Lotus Restaurant photo postcard posted by DustyCajun...

Finally, we come back to the central mystery of the Lotus Restaurant posed by DustyCajun’s original post: How did the giant moai and the oriental clam face adorning the front of the Lotus Restaurant come to be? Was it another of Lewis Van Dercar’s fanciful works, as speculated by DC? Recall that Van Dercar’s creative range included the Luau tikis in Miami Beach, Annie the Dragon on Merritt Island, the giant mermaid-clamshell-King Neptune fountain at the Anchor Inn Restaurant in South Melbourne Beach (perhaps those mermaids still adorn Wayne Coombs garden), and the weird alien-looking idol of Pagan Island (see http://www.somethingweird.com/cart.php?product_id=37859&target=product)...

The bottom line up front: I couldn’t find a shred of archival information to conclusively end this mystery. But I did find some interesting connections to several well-known mid-century Florida Polynesian Pop establishments. My speculation is that there was a cross-flow of tiki “DNA” from one or more of these connections to the Lotus Restaurant, to include ideas and possibly tiki artisans.

First, I’d like to introduce you to another member of the Lee family who worked at the Lotus Restaurant in the late 1950s, the venerable Ho Lum Lee, also known as “Papa” Lee. I stumbled onto this article about Darryl Lee, a Lee family entrepreneur who opened the Rickshaw Restaurant at Deltona in 1984. Over the course of the interview, Darryl reveals that his father, Ho Lum Lee, worked several years as chef at the Hawaiian Inn in Daytona Beach and then moved on to be chef at Tiki Gardens, retiring after 20 years there...

The Daytona Beach News-Journal November 5, 1986

What can we infer about the chronology of the Lotus Restaurant tikis? Well, DC’s photo caption says “established 17 years in Daytona Beach.” Given a restaurant opening circa 1950, that would suggest the tikis were already erected by 1967 or 1968.

The Hawaiian Inn opened at Daytona Beach in 1965. I found this small real estate announcement from early 1967 that confirmed Papa Lee’s employment as chef at the Hawaiian Inn...

Daytona Beach Morning Journal January 25, 1967

Then, there was this article about the 1970 opening of the new Trader Frank’s restaurant at Tiki Gardens in Indian Rocks Beach, featuring a smiling Chef Papa Ho Lum Lee...

The Evening Independent May 20, 1970

And here’s a Trader Frank’s ad from the period...

The Evening Independent August 25, 1972

Note that native Tahitian-born Teva Lucas was named as restaurant manager and cited for his artistic influence on the décor, as well as his earlier instrumental role in decorating the Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale... perhaps Swanky might have something to offer regarding this individual’s Mai-Kai contributions?

To conclude this, I ran across this 1989 article of remembrance...

The Daytona Beach News-Journal February 4, 1989

DC, my mission has come to an end. I offer these posts as my report to you.



Hi tikiTomD. Intrigued by all your research and posting re Charlie Reese's Hi-Hat Club in Daytona Beach. Would love to share my history in that regard, but before doing so, are you still interested?

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