Some years ago, I wrote a piece entitled "In Praise of Hotel Bars" in which I endeavoured to identify those distinctive qualities that made a good hotel bar so enjoyable - apart, that is, from being a reliable source of alcohol. The answer, I concluded, lay in two particular characteristics: anonymity and variety. You can spend an evening in a hotel bar - as compared with a local or community bar - without anyone knowing your identity (unless you wished otherwise, or you are a "celeb"); and you can reasonably expect to find a ready supply of replacements for whoever you'd bored into near-extinction the previous night.
After a further period of extensive and diligent participant observation, I still hold to this assessment, but to it I would like to add a third quality. In place of tasteless draft beers and "classic" mixes, the better hotel bar now offers a range of craft ales, imaginative wines and innovative cocktails that add a new dimension -in terms of outturn and experience - to the image of the tired, old hotel bar.
So far, so good. But there is a "but", I'm afraid. The other evening I overheard a conversation between two F&B Managers (one Marriott, the other Radisson, I think) which ended with the two participants in complete agreement that this new model could never catch on because: a) "Head Office" would never agree to the additional, upfront expenditure involved; b) most hotels couldn't or wouldn't enhance the skills levels of bar staff; and c) centralised suppliers would be loathe to source the new products required.
With spirits a little dampened, I retired for the evening, but the enticing prospect still beckons. And on that note,
Best wishes to you all for a safe and successful 2 017
arkwright, I would love to read the original! I tried to find it via search, but alas was unable. Would you be so kind as to share a link or republish in your new thread? Fascinating topic!
Here's some insight into ark's view of the hotel bar from his earlier work
"and on to the bar - for me, the determinant above all others of a perfect hotel: it must be quiet, but not intimate; it must have knowledgeable but not intrusive staff, and most of all it must attract an interesting but again not intrusive clientele: the great joy of the hotel bar lies precisely in the variety and relatively anonymity it offers."
Ark's too busy manually mapping the human genome to mess with the Insiders search function.
1) The Denver Renaissance has a fascinating hotel bar (The Teller Bar) in a converted bank lobby (with historic American western artwork along the ceiling walls) with local draft beers, 'artisan' cocktails (and classic ones) and most important to yours truly - happy hours.
There are others (like The Edgar at the Mayflower - which I believe the OP hung out at). I could see where the two F&B guys would form their opinion about it being a tough conversion, but here come the millennials and the pod concept of socializing (no book reading for you ark, and perhaps not much variety ), so we'll see. More properties are subcontracting some of their food and beverage ops, so that's also where we could see anonymity and variety.
Next time in DC - ChurchKey for all your craft beer desires.
As ever I enjoyed and appreciated your comments. From these and Be Jacob's piece below, I sense that, for whatever reason, the bars in US Marriott establishments might well be giving a lead to their UK/European counterparts on this one. If so, hats off, and thanks.
One point I omitted to mention - through an exaggerated respect for the genome or whatever - are the benefits, motivational and financial, to both the establishment and its staff of encouraging their bar staff to bring forward their own ideas for innovative cocktails. It can be done on an "one by one" basis or by following a particular theme: e.g. literature, art or even philosophy. I'd be quite intrigued by the prospect of ordering a "Mensch und Ubermensch".
I can't speak to the imaginative wines and innovative cocktails, but I have noticed that many hotel bars at Marriott properties in the US usually have a couple local beers on tap. While not a wide range, it's enough of a sample so I can at least try something from the area I'm visiting. I remember drinking a "Golden Spike," brewed in nearby Salt Lake City when I stayed at the Provo Marriott. I have tired similar local "craft" brews at Marriott bars in Colorado Springs, Memphis, Baton Rouge, and Maui (and quite a few others I can't bring to mind at the moment ).
Certainly not up to the level you've recommended, but it's a step in the right direction.
Beyond the excellent comments mentioned above, one item that is very important to me is being able to order food from the same menu used in the dining room. I much prefer eating at a bar rather than a table if it is just me or me and my wife. Being told that you cannot have the full dining menu but instead must order from an uninspired bar menu of chicken wings and burgers bothers me. Many of the better bars do not limit you in any way, and in fact go out of their way to accommodate your needs.
Thanks for raising this subject, arkwright. I totally agree.
In my spare time I'm a big craft beer lover, but I also can appreciate the occasional mojito / margarita / martini cocktail.
In too many hotels there is still the regular Bud / Coors / Molson / Heineken **** on the menu that I refuse in the blink of an eye. On top of that, classic cocktails may be a hit or miss depending on your bartender.
For me, in many occasions, having a bar with signature drinks would easily win me over. It makes a hotel a destination on its own, rather than a place to sleep.
But the waiting staff and bartenders also need to know how to sell those drinks, because otherwise the uninspired corpo clients will just stick to what they know.
GGreat to see you again, arkwright.
WHilst I think the reservations held by the managers certainly do apply, it's worth remembering a lot of Marriotts are franchised, and if a nimble franchisee sees the possibility of extra profit from an improved beer selection and increased staff bar skills then they may well decide to make the appropriate investments. Certainly in at least one area of the Marriottt empire, namely Autographs, the hotel bar is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, of my 3 most recent Autograph stays, Budapest Boscolo, Houston Icon and London Xenia all have had excellent and atmospheric bars with a wide beer and/or cocktail menu.
Agree totally with your observation re Autograph Hotels. Recently stayed at the Steinplatz in Berlin, where the bar has "commissioned" a local brewery to produce its (I.e. the hotel's) own draught pale ale. That, together with a very acceptable bar menu, led to a most enjoyable evening.