HAVANA'S HOTEL RIVIERA
MEYER LANSKY'S HOTEL RIVIERA
The Hotel Riviera on Havana's malecon represented the pinnacle of hotel construction when it opened in 1957. Its construction was inspired by the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas and was the crown jewel of American mobster Meyer Lansky’s gambling empire. Polish born Meyer Lansky has been operating casinos in Cuba since the 1930s, Funding for the construction of the Riviera came from Lansky’s U.S. partners and Cuban public funds.
Havana’s Hotel Riviera was considered one of the best hotels in the world when it was opened in December 1957. The Riviera was the first hotel in Cuba with air conditioning and views of the ocean in all rooms. Acclaimed Cuban artists designed the art works that still decorate its interior and exterior today. Meyer Lansky was able to get it built over the course of seven months, and upon opening became the favorite spot of visiting American celebrities. The Riviera casino stopped operating immediately after the departure of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista in the early morning hours of January 1st, 1959 and the property was nationalized in October 1959 by the revolutionary government.
Though it has deteriorated significantly over the years because of disinterest and lack of maintenance by Cuba’s communist government, the beauty of Havana’s Hotel Riviera is still evident. It probably hasn’t made as much profit it the last fifty-nine years as it did in the twelve months that it operated under the direction of Meyer Lansky.
By Frank Gonzalez