At the expansive Oak Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, a stylish crowd tucks into roast chicken as a fireplace flickers. Over at the Revere Hotel, scenesters check out street art at a weekly event called Assemble. And in an elegant ballroom above Boylston Street, a well-dressed crowd of power players mingle over sauvignon blanc while viewing art at the Mandarin Oriental.
Forget terrycloth robes and iPod docking stations, the hottest amenity for local hotels is buzz. From sleek restaurants to networking events to fashion shows that attract an eclectic crop of urbanites, Boston hoteliers are increasingly catering to customers who may never check in.
“Hotels have become much more than a place where someone drops off luggage and sleeps for a few hours and it’s on to the next business trip,” said Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Hotels have become meeting points, collection points for locals or international travelers.”
Boston is one of the most competitive hotel markets in the country, coming in third after New York and San Francisco, according to GBCVB. And now the push for heads in beds has combined with a pursuit for life in the lobby.
“If you can position yourself as a place with events that draw in the locals, it makes the hotel guests simply stay,” said Rachel Moniz, general manager of the Liberty Hotel, where free events aimed at downtown denizens take place five days a week.
Cooking demos with chefs, yoga instruction, a dog-friendly happy hour, and regular fashion events has made the Liberty a neighborhood culture club since it opened in 2007.
“It would be a shame to have this beautifully built hotel and not have locals experience it,” Moniz said.
Other hotel executives are discovering that a social calendar that attracts a crowd nets a valuable byproduct. Guests and staycationing suburbanites dropping into a stylish scene find there’s no need to go — and spend money — elsewhere. And local scenesters may stick around to have dinner at the in-house restaurants.
On a recent Wednesday, the liveliest scene in the Theatre District may not have been at the Wang Theatre, but at Emerald Lounge at the Revere Hotel. Karmaloop, the locally based online clothing retailer, curated a show of edgy street art displayed throughout the hotel’s thumping lounge.
In the corner, mobile boutique Sneakerbox displayed T-shirts, and hipsters worked the room at the weekly Assemble event.
“This is about bringing the art to the people,” said Jamaal Eversley, a 24-year-old poet/painter/actor from Randolph, who was nodding to ’90s hip-hop. “I’d never be here if it wasn’t for this.”
Hotel guest Jim Locascio, in town for a pharmaceutical supply show at the Revere Hotel, wandered into the welter of 20-somethings and found it “fabulous.”
“It’s cool stuff,” said Locascio, of New Jersey, as he settled onto a couch with his co-workers.
Such cultural collisions have helped the year-old hotel stay hot and “avoid any sort of staleness or stigma that might be associated with being just another hotel bar,” said Bryan Barbieri, the Revere’s public relations director.
Making the boutique hotel a destination for young, creative types has been an effective strategy, he said.
It has “led to a ton of business leads from attendees, who want to book events at the hotel and the lounge,” said Barbieri, who presents film premieres, launch parties, and started a new series that pairs food and film. “They have become some of our best brand leaders.”
In Boston and Cambridge, where there are 98 hotels and up to 20 more being proposed, according to Moscaritolo, even the most storied locations can need a rebrand.
The regal but stuffy Oak Room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, for example, was perfect if “you wanted to sit down in a cushy chair and pretend you were more rich than you were,” said the hotel’s general manager Paul Tormey.
But over the decades, it met the worst fate for a restaurant and lounge. “It was getting to be a special-occasion restaurant, which is death row for any facility,” Tormey said. “If you are known for that, it’s lights out.”
When the new Oak Long Bar + Kitchen opened last summer, as part of the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s $20 million renovation, the anchor of the 383-room hotel became a hot spot overnight. With quadruple the bar capacity, chic new fixtures and furnishings, and a contemporary menu, locals have made it their local.
“It’s brought in a new and moneyed crowd from Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the South End coupled with hotel guests, and we are thrilled,” said Tormey.Continued...