The trend in hotel-bar design has moved away from generic-looking hotel lounges serving merely the wayward traveller, to bars featuring unique themes that cultivate experiences. Not surprisingly, these bars have become destinations for locals as well as guests. This shift has taken place over the last 10 years or so, according to restaurant development expert Elizabeth Blau of L.A.-based Blau & Associates, who developed the D/6 concept at The Douglas, an Autograph Collection Hotel, in Vancouver. “It’s very much like what’s happened with restaurants — it’s this curation of these destination bars,” she says. Blau notes that in the past 50 years, hotel bars have moved away from having their own unique style and became more generic. “But now, we’re moving back to the unique. Owners want to create a more storied concept.”
From ultra-chic to vintage, Hotelier has highlighted four hotel bars that entice guests and locals alike with unique stories.
D/6 at The Douglas, Vancouver
D/6 is a new hipster-chic ultra-lounge that sits on the sixth floor of luxury hotel, The Douglas, an Autograph Collection hotel, in the new Parq Vancouver entertainment complex, which opened in downtown Vancouver late last year. D/6 (D stands for Douglas, 6 for the sixth floor) sits in between The Douglas’s two hotel towers and offers a one-of-a-kind experience overlooking the Vancouver skyline. “It’s not a nightclub, but it’s more than just a bar,” says Elizabeth Blau of Blau & Associates, co-operator of the lounge, which also allows access to the complex’s sixth-floor urban park. Inside D/6, guests can lounge with a crafted cocktail among bookcases and a fireplace.
“The bartenders are really proud of their mixology,” says Blau. Offerings include the Parq Mule, which features Stolichnaya vodka, Fever Tree ginger beer, lime, apple and spices. The Douglas Fir is made with Yaletown Douglas Fir gin, Cointreau, sweet and dry vermouth and orange-juniper bitters.
D/6 was created as a destination rather than a hotel bar, says Blau. The bookcases create a sense of mystery and sexiness, she explains, adding that the lounge has a hidden surprise — behind one of the bookcases is a private room that can be rented out for functions. “I was inspired by the speakeasies,” says Blau.
The Douglas is an homage to the Pacific Northwest and to David Douglas, the celebrated botanist for whom the Douglas fir was named. “We wanted a reflection of the Pacific Northwest, so we came up with a story of what we wanted to create,” says Blau, who collaborated with Vincent Celano of New York-based Celano Design and Sixteenfifty Creative Intelligence of La Jolla, Calif. “It was highly orchestrated, it didn’t just happen,” says Blau. “I think that is super important if you’re going to create an authentic experience.”
Options Jazz Lounge at Brookstreet Hotel, Ottawa
Sushi and jazz, plus a $5 “Appy Hour” have made Options Jazz Lounge a popular option for Ottawans for the past 15 years. Located in Ottawa’s West End in Canada’s largest hi-tech industrial park — Kanata North — Marketing manager Sharon Ravnas says Options has always been a destination for locals.
“We’re the only venue in the area that offers live jazz, seven nights a week, so we have a large local following,” says Ravnas. “We host a jam session every Thursday that local musicians can join in. It’s become so popular that we have to have musicians sign up ahead of time.” Featured jazz bands hail not just from Ottawa, but also from Toronto and Montreal.
At Options, Japanese sushi chef N. Yasuda crafts fresh sushi daily for jazz lunches where guests and locals mingle. And, in the evenings, a $5 “Appy Hour” (from 4 to 6 p.m. daily) features appetizers, such as sweet potato fries with garlic mayo and edamame, as well as $5 drinks including Soco Sweet Tea — Southern Comfort, sweet tea, lemon juice and mint. “We have a patio overlooking a pond and the golf course and it’s perfect to sit outside in the summer and listen to music. It’s a big attraction for the local audience,” says Ravnas. Options also features craft beers from local breweries, including Kichesippi, Beaus and Big Rig — all from Ottawa and surrounding areas.
The Lounge at the Luxus, St. John’s
This high-end lobby bar is, in fact, the lobby, easily accessible to both guests in the six-suite luxury boutique hotel — Newfoundland’s first five-star hotel — and locals alike. The swanky Lounge offers a relaxed atmosphere, with dim lighting, comfortable chairs and Happy Hour daily from 4 to 7 p.m., which attracts many locals.
Once a month, The Lounge hosts Cocktail Comedy, featuring local stand-up comedians. “It’s a suit-and-tie affair,” general manager Christopher Woodley says of the monthly event, which has grown popular with locals. “Our cocktail crafters create special drinks for the event,” he says — usually in honour of the local comedian.
Craft cocktails on the menu include the Blueberry Ginger Snap — Kraken rum, NL Distillery Co. Seaweed Gin, Irish Mist, Labrador-Tea syrup, lemon, blueberries and gingerbread seasoning. The caramelized-sugar Old Fashioned is made with Crown Royal Vanilla, Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, Angostura bitters and a Demerara sugar cube. And don’t forget the Newfoundland Screech rum. “It’s not something we do all the time, but we can Screech you in,” says Woodley, referring to the ritual of making a non-Newfoundlander an honorary Newfoundlander for a day.
“Newfoundlanders are extremely friendly,” says Woodley. “The Lounge is just a nice place to sit, have a drink and relax.”
The Melody Bar at the Gladstone Hotel
Toronto Located in the trendy Queen West neighbourhood of Toronto, just blocks away from the famous Ossington Strip, the Melody Bar at the Gladstone Hotel beckons guests and locals alike to a time forgotten. Restored 1889 Victorian fresco pillars and a 1940s vintage bar set the tone in this hotel bar.
“The Melody Bar is a full-service restaurant, plus we offer karaoke, music bingo, comedy nights and live entertainment,” says Marketing and Communications director Tara McCallum. The bar is well-known for its “Signature Six” cocktail collection, each of which were crafted by bar staff and inspired by the history of the hotel, says McCallum. For example, the Burlesque pays tribute to the 1960s when the Gladstone was one of the only venues in the area to hold a burlesque license for entertainment. The drink’s diverse ingredients reflect the diversity of the city, featuring Kopke Fine Ruby Port, Glenlivet 12-year-old scotch, rhubarb bitters and a house-made honey-cinnamon syrup. The Coley honours turn-of-the-century women bartenders and features Hayman’s Gin, Cocchi di Torino Vermouth, Fernet Bianca and smoky black tea.
McCallum says her favourite thing about the bar and hotel is its revolving art exhibits. “There’s art everywhere, on every floor,” she explains, adding guests can walk around the 37-room hotel with a drink in their hand and look at the exhibits, which feature local and international artists. “The whole hotel is licensed,” says McCallum. “Once people discover they can move around like that, they love it.”
Written by Marina Davalos