TRAVEL - INTERVIEW
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
TRAVEL - INTERVIEW
by Melisa Kaya
Chicago is the city where the first skyscraper was built. And it hosts the Sears Tower, which held the world's tallest building title from 1973 to 1996. When you visit a city known for its skyscrapers, maybe the best way to understand this atmosphere is to stay in a hotel that hosted by a skyscraper that has witnessed this history. The historic building, formerly an office building, became a luxury hotel with the investment of Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC. A building that has witnessed history, a unique location, a terrace with city views, carefully decorated 452 rooms and suites, gastronomic spaces spread over three floors and many more features create LondonHouse Chicago. Whether you're leisure or business traveller, LondonHouse Chicago lays the city of Chicago under your feet. I talked with Don Barnett, Director of Sales and Marketing at LondonHouse Chicago, about the hotel and Chicago.
Don, before talking about LondonHouse Chicago, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Don Barnett?
I was born and raised in the Chicagoland area, and I'm a die-hard Cubs fan. I've had a dynamic career so far. I started in hospitality in '95 and worked my way up to a director of business travel position. In 2006, I had a unique opportunity to become part owner of a stone fabrication company (complete career 180!), eventually helping run two stone companies simultaneously. After seven years we decided to move on from the stone businesses, and I came back to the hotel business reinvigorated and laser-focused. Owning a business strengthened my work ethic and gave me a healthy respect for revenue. When it's your business, you're playing with your own money rather than the "house money".
The Building of LondonHouse Chicago - 1920s
The history of your building dates back to 1923. Could you briefly tell us about the details of this elegant building? What do you enjoy most about your building?
Having been in the stone business, I have a deep appreciation for the architecture and facade of the building. It goes toe-to-toe with the grandeur of the Tribune and Wrigley Buildings that are across the Chicago River from us. From the fluted columns to the Cupola on the 23rd floor, it's magnificent. Our management company, Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC, had an amazing vision to add an entire modern glass tower to expand what the hotel could offer. While the new and iconic buildings compliment each other on the outside, the hotel has a seamless design inside.
Chicago City View from LondonHouse Chicago 22nd floor Terrace - Photo by Nicholas James Photography
LondonHouse Chicago is located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Could you tell us about the hotel’s location and the advantages of being there?
Our tagline is "It Starts Here". We want our guests’ memories of LondonHouse and Chicago to start with us, and our location is also literally where it starts. We're located at the beginning of the Mag Mile if you're heading north, or the beginning of the Loop if you're heading south. This puts us within steps of some of the best restaurants and rich culture the city has to offer. Not to mention we're located on the former site of Fort Dearborn, where Chicago itself started.
Could you tell us about LondonHouse Chicago and the overall concept?
We're a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel which includes all of the benefits and service you would expect with the Hilton name. We're a luxury lifestyle hotel – LondonHouse offers the service you'd expect at a luxury hotel, without being stuffy or high-brow. What I love about our concept is that the design is unique and is directly influenced by Chicago and the building we're located in.
LondonHouse Chicago Guest Room King - Photo by Nathan Kirkman
LondonHouse Chicago has 452 high-design rooms and suites. What type of different rooms and suites do you offer to your guests? Could you tell us about their features?
Because of the history of the hotel as an office building, the guest rooms throughout the hotel are spacious with high ceilings, have unique layouts and views whether it be the Chicago River or Michigan Avenue. Rooms in the all-glass Vista Tower section of the hotel feature floor-to-ceiling windows. While we do offer suites, you can expect a high class stays in any room. Frette robes in every closet, Nespresso machines for that coffee fix, smart fridges, smart TV's, Tivoli clock radios, large walk-in showers with Malin & Goetz bath amenities. You'll feel like you treated yourself.
LondonHouse Chicago Lobby Lounge - Photo by Nathan Kirkman
What kind of service do you offer to your guests?
Our service is all about personalization and comfort. From our in-room dining to our knowledgeable concierges, our team is equipped to help guests enjoy the city, whether they will be doing so from the comfort of their guest room or by exploring outside the hotel. Guests should always feel comfortable asking for recommendations from any member of our team.
LondonHouse Chicago 22nd floor Outdoor Terrace - Photo by Nicholas James Photography
What would you want to say about the gastronomic diversity of Chicago? How does Chef Jacob Verstegen contribute to this diversity?
Chicago is recognized as one of the best food cities in the world, and we are lucky to be located in the heart of it. The hotel has five different food and beverage destinations within the building’s walls. LondonHouse Chicago’s Executive Chef Jacob Verstegen offers guests and locals an elevated yet approachable dining experience at LH, our three-level restaurant and rooftop destination, which draws on the city’s food history and utilizes locally-sourced ingredients – celebrating the Midwest while bringing global inspirations and techniques to the menu.
LondonHouse Chicago 22nd floor Terrace - Photo by Nicholas James Photography
How can your guest experience this at the restaurant and rooftop venue on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd floors?
Guests have a variety of ways to experience LH, both indoors and outdoors. On the 21st floor, LH on 21 offers a more intimate dining space where guests can enjoy a menu of reimagined American cuisine by Chef Verstegen, accompanied by jazz-age-inspired cocktails.
LondonHouse Chicago 21nd floor Indoor Bar - Photo by Nicholas James Photography
LH on 22, our sprawling rooftop terrace, welcomes guests with unforgettable views of the river and iconic architecture in the city – the perfect place for a post-work bite to eat or after-dinner nightcap. At the apex of the hotel is the Cupola on the 23rd floor. The Cupola is a part of the 1923 building’s beaux-arts original structure – a pillared, domed, circular space that offers 360-degree views of the city, lake, and river. When not rented for private events, like 20-course dinner parties or marriage proposals, guests can bring their cocktail up to the Cupola for a picturesque view.
LondonHouse Chicago Juliette Grand Ballroom Chicago River View
What are the privileges that you offer to companies that want to organize their events in LondonHouse Chicago?
The meeting space at LondonHouse Chicago offers variety and service with attention to detail. From a grand ballroom that can hold 350 to a fully-equipped executive boardroom, organizations that meet at LondonHouse can find the right space for their needs. We have a dedicated catering menu with classic meeting and event food and beverage options, as well as playful themed break-outs, such as out Willy Wonka catering package.
LondonHouse Chicago Meeting Room
Could you tell us about your meeting rooms and their features?
Our event spaces are flexible and most offer fantastic views of the city that can be found in our guestrooms and at the rooftop. Full AV capabilities can be found in each one, as well as high-speed Wi-fi. The historic design inspirations do not end at our event and meeting spaces, which are named for Fort Dearborn leaders and Chicago icons and have design elements that harken back to the 1920s, when the building was constructed – such as pearl-like carpet patterns and beaded chandeliers.
LondonHouse Chicago Library Vignette - Photo by Nathan Kirkman
What are the advantages of being an award-winning hotel in Chicago? Please tell us about the awards that LondonHouse Chicago won.
Since its opening, LondonHouse Chicago has been recognized for its design, event space, and service with awards, including Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award as one of the top ten hotels in Chicago, Smart Meetings’ Platinum Choice Award, IL Meetings + Events’ Top Hotel with Meeting and Event Space for more than 350, Chicago Commercial Real Estate’s Top Development of the Year, and Contract Magazine’s Best Hotel Interior, among many others. We are proud to have been recognized for our service and design over the hotel’s three years. We continue to improve and expand upon our offerings to reach new goals and accolades.
How could your guests spend time at LondonHouse Chicago?
We have truly evolved into a destination unto itself. We have FIVE dining options on property offering everything from casual grab & go to fine dining. Our rooftop bar is one of the hottest spots in the city. We have a complimentary fitness center for our guests which includes Peloton bikes, and our Spa offers anything you would need to replenish and refresh.
LondonHouse Chicago 22nd floor Outdoor Terrace - Photo by Nicholas James Photography
Do you have any advantage packs or loyalty program that you offer to your regular and long-term guests?
Being a part of the Curio Collection means that our guests receive the perks that come with being a Hilton Honors program member, while still experiencing a stay that is not a cookie-cutter experience. Curio hotels each have their own identity and atmosphere that makes them completely unique to their location.
How can travelers make their individual or business/group reservations?
Travelers can make a reservation at LondonHouse on our website (www.londonhousechicago.com) and by calling us at 312-357-1200. For those looking to book a stay for a group, planners can tell us about their stay needs here.
LondonHouse Chicago View from Cupola - Photo by Nicholas James Photography
What are the most notable attractions near the hotel?
The hotel is located in one of the most central locations in the city along Michigan Avenue, at the start of the Magnificent Mile and along the Riverwalk. LondonHouse is conveniently located across from the new Chicago Architecture Center, which offers tour and exhibitions centered on the city’s great architecture and design history. We are also just a few blocks from Millennium Park, Navy Pier, The Chicago Cultural Center, and more.
If you have only one weekend in Chicago as a first-time visitor, in this limited time, what are the best things to do?
There are so many options it's unbelievable. A Chicago Architecture River Tour is unique and fascinating. Going to Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game is a pilgrimage for any baseball fan (except White Sox fans). Willis Tower provides a sweeping view of the city, and you'll endear yourself to Chicagoans if you refer to it as the Sears Tower like the locals do. From LH, our rooftop bar, watching the sun go down between the "urban Grand Canyon" down the Chicago River is one of the most beautiful and Instagrammable views in the entire city.
How would you describe Chicago in one sentence?
A city with something for everyone.
Thank you Don for your time.