No matter what city you’re in or even what resort, the hotel lobby bar serves a universal function: It’s a convenient spot to meet a business associate, conduct a quick meeting or while away a few minutes before a dinner or a show.
Industrywide, hotel lobby bars are seen as ancillary revenue generators, and there hasn’t been a lot of thought put into them, says Alex Taylor, director of food and beverage for The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.
"A lobby bar is seen as a place to have a quick drink and push off, it’s not seen as a place you’d socialize," agrees David Peterson, general manager of the MGM Grand’s lobby bar, Zuri.
But in Las Vegas, several resorts are taking a different approach; in some cases re-envisioning the space, making the lobby bar a destination in its own right.
That’s the goal of Zuri, at least since a major remodel last year. In addition to the traditional uses, the bar has become a trendy night spot, Peterson says.
During the day, conventioneers meet over a drink to talk shop and tourists sit down to plan their time or use the bar as a meeting point. But at night, Zuri turns into an after-dinner spot or even a place to make new friends, Peterson says.
"This is what MGM Grand thought the public wanted in a bar," he adds, calling Zuri a modern take on an old-fashioned martini bar, featuring nouveau cocktails.
Oversized couches, chairs and footstools give the lounge a cozy atmosphere, while the drink menu focuses on top shelf scotches, classic martinis and fusion cocktails. The bar features a broad selection of cigars, too, Peterson says.
Zuri’s theme has wide appeal and attracts a mix of clientele, including hotel guests, nightclubgoers, diners and show audiences, Peterson says. The atmosphere is lively enough to entertain — a range of music, from R&B to house and techno, is piped in — yet quiet enough for conversation and interaction. "The bar is attracting everyone who wants to have fun, but also small, intimate groups," Peterson notes.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Verandah bar and lounge at the Four Seasons. It’s actually part of the Verandah restaurant but encompasses some of the lobby. Management sees the bar as an extension of the hotel’s public area, a place for guests, locals and anyone else to relax and recharge after their day, says Kari Koskela, director of food and beverage for the hotel.
The atmosphere is more subdued than at Zuri but that’s the way Koskela wants it. While both have an upscale feel and appearance, the energy is different. If Zuri is where you go to be in the midst of Strip life at its peak, the Verandah bar and lounge is where you go to avoid it.
"We’re going for a little more of a sophisticated and calm atmosphere where you get away from all the activity of Las Vegas," Koskela says. "But even though we talk about sophistication, we still want to be fun and not stiff."
The bar was remodeled nearly two years ago with comfort in mind, Koskela says. This is the sort of place a local can visit after work, take off his jacket, loosen his tie and visit with the bartender or the guy on the next stool. Think "Cheers" but a bit more upscale. The bar offers a happy hour called "5-2-7," because the promotion runs from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres are served during that time.
"People come to us at the end of the day, have a drink and end up staying for dinner they’re so comfortable," Koskela says. "It has a getaway feel to it."
The clientele of the Galleria bar at Caesars Palace consists of anyone and everyone: hotel guests, resort visitors, diners, shoppers and locals, says Read Scot, entertainment director for Caesars. During the past couple of years, the Galleria bar has become an additional night life option while still providing an intimate space for quiet conversation.
During the day, it’s a meeting place for tourists or a quiet place to relax. At night, "we spice it up with entertainment," Scot says.
"This is a place where we can entertain guests for a moment. It’s not a large bar, the service is great and guests can people-watch. It kind of creates its own entertainment," Scot says, adding that it’s also "a safe zone for people to energize, gather their thoughts, recharge and plan their day. They can go see their shows, eat dinner and then come back for more live entertainment."
The bar features live entertainment from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends, usually pianists or singers who perform standards made popular by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others, Scot says.
The metamorphosis of the lobby bar has taken many forms. Companies in the same category as The Hotel use the space to set a tone for guests and define a property, Taylor notes.
The Hotel’s lobby bar, simply called The Lounge, "generates a substantial amount of revenue for the property, but it’s also part of marketing the total experience. We’re delivering not just an amenity, (The Lounge) is defining part of what makes us special," Taylor says.
It’s near Mandalay Bay’s convention center so The Lounge is a convenient place for convention attendees to start deals, close deals and mingle.
Bartenders use only fresh-squeezed juices and purees and The Lounge features the latest in "chill-out lounge music," Taylor says of the piped in mood-setting music. The design matches that of The Hotel: clean lines with a classic-meets-modern feel to it, he adds.
It’s also the place where hotel guests start and end their evenings, as receipts show peak activity in the early and late evening, he says.
Though the philosophy for the bar has been successful, management always is looking for new ways to keep things fresh, Taylor says.
"We’re not going to rest on our laurels," he adds. "You’re going to continue seeing it evolve, you have to if you want to maintain that hip environment."