Community Building Alternatives: Beyond the Rooftop and Lobby Bar
By David Ashen Principal & Founder, dash design | October 06, 2019
Staying up-to-date on trends is par for the course when you are head of an interior design and brand consulting firm. Recently, I was interviewing for a new project, a refresh of a rooftop bar on a hotel in New York City and the second such rooftop project our firm was asked to lend fresh thinking on in two short months.
Rather than simply come up with concepts, I paused to ask the client an important question, which was, "How do want to differentiate yourself in the market?" The answer led into detailing a long list of competition in the neighborhood and a bit of a quandary as to how to create a compelling reason for people to come to this particular rooftop. What an integral question to ask!
Once upon a time, rooftop venues were not as commonplace; in fact, they were innovative. Back in 2010, when I was working on Urban Farmer restaurant at The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Portland, Oregon, our then-client was interested in creating two destination bars that would bring the locals in – one in the lobby and one on the roof, each with its own distinct vibe. The idea was to create B&F venues (beverage became more important that food, thus the flip in order on what's typically called F&B) that drove business by connecting to a missing need in the community.
At the time, Departure, the other B&F venue on the top of the hotel, would be the first and only rooftop bar and restaurant in the city. It was a novel idea that had been proven successful in U.S. cities like New York and Miami. There was no doubt that this would be a success in Portland and, of course, it was. A decade later, there are dozens of rooftop venues in downtown Portland, as one can find out by doing a simple Google search. Clearly, the concept works and has caught on!
Hoteliers have learned that a smart way to increase the bottom line significantly is to cater to the local community and build revenue streams beyond the room. Meetings and social events were traditionally the path, then destination restaurants and bars. Ian Schrager was a leader in this with his partnership with the China Grill Management group and their creation of amazing nightlife venues in his hotels. Now the rooftop bar has become ubiquitous and, though it hasn't run its course, hoteliers are looking for more relevant ways to distinguish their product and connect with the local neighborhood in more meaningful ways.
In the development and search for new ideas, Millennial preferences seem to be leading the thinking on what possibilities may lie ahead. This fresh, forward thinking is driving change and creating new opportunities for hoteliers who are willing to think big.