At Hotels, Space That’s Like the Office, ‘but Cooler’

Hotels have already turned their lobbies into spaces where guests can socialize or work. Now, some properties are going one step further to cater to business travelers and professionals in general: They’ve set up WeWork-style co-working areas.

Traditional hotel business centers these aren’t. Yes, they offer practical amenities like office supplies, printers and, of course, coffee. But they also have a laid-back ambience and convivial feel of the shared working spaces popping up around the globe under the banner of the start-up WeWork.

The new hotel business centers seem to have struck a chord among business travelers who find that they’re probably getting less work done in busy hotel lobbies, said Lorraine Sileo, the senior vice president of research for the travel research company Phocuswright. “Lobbies are distracting because there is so much going on, with people coming in and out and also socializing,” she said. “These new work spaces are meant for productivity.”

They’re also especially attractive to younger business travelers, said Jessica Collison, the research director for the Global Business Travel Association. “Millennials tend be more nomadic than the older generation of travelers and spend more time outside of their room,” she said. “Hotels have picked up on this, and more of them are offering a co-working option.”

The AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore, for example, which opened in October, offers the indoor and outdoor AC Lounge, on the side of its lobby. The more than 5,000-square-foot light gray space has several couches, a large communal table with electrical outlets at every seat and a 20-seat high table that’s a working area by day and a bar after 4 p.m. Guests and non-guests are welcome to use the lounge without charge, said David Belk, the hotel’s general manager, and can get free coffee and biscotti. The lounge’s small library has computers, printers and office supplies like paper clips and folders.

“We want the lounge to be a go-to and convenient for anyone who’s working,” Mr. Belk said.

Alex Griffiths, who lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and travels to Phoenix frequently for his job in renewable energy, has stayed at the AC several times since it opened and said that he used the lounge both for team meetings and computer work. “It’s like a fully functioning office but cooler, and I like the synergy with the other people who are also working,” he said. “I also love the biscotti.”

The co-working area at the Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina, called Coco and the Director, is more compact than the AC Lounge. It has two tables with eight seats each and a whiteboard with markers that guests can use during meetings for notes, said Seamus Gallagher, the property’s director of guest experience. It also offers a for-purchase menu of coffee and sandwiches.

Although access is free for anyone, seats must be reserved by signing up on the chalkboard near the co-working area entrance. “You can stay for as long as you want,” Mr. Gallagher said, “and our staff will give you any office supplies you need and help with printing documents.”

Read More »

How have Seguin, Benn responded since being called out?

Less than two weeks ago, Dallas Stars president Jim Lites called out superstar forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn because they weren’t “getting it done.” The hockey community was stunned when those comments came to light. Why take a shot at your franchise players when your team depth has been a serious issue for years? Even the NHLPA jumped in to stick up for two of their own.

Immediately, many began to speculate that this was going to be the end of one or both players in Dallas. The Stars have said that they won’t be trading either player, so a divorce probably isn’t imminent. So Seguin and Benn had to find a way to get through all the noise.

How have they responded since being called out by their president on Dec. 28? Let’s take a look.

Benn played only 15:07 in a huge, 5-1, win over the Detroit Red Wings. He had just two shots on net and didn’t collect a point in the victory. But he followed that up by scoring in back-to-back games against Montreal and New Jersey. Unfortunately for him, he was knocked out of the game against the Devils after he took a questionable hit from forward Miles Wood.

The 29-year-old missed the following game against the Washington Capitals, but he was able to return the following game against Winnipeg. He finished minus-2 but didn’t register a shot on goal. He was plus-2 in last night’s win over St. Louis but, again, no points and just one shot on goal.

Benn’s possession numbers haven’t been good at all since he came back to the lineup. His CF% was a team-low 31.82 during the game against the Jets. The possession numbers were worse last night (27.59), as he and the rest of the Stars were outshot by the Blues.

The injury clearly came at an unfortunate time, but most of the Stars haven’t posted good numbers over the last two contests.

As for Seguin, he’s managed to be incredibly productive since being called out. He started out by picking up an assist in back-to-back games against the Wings and Habs. In that game against the Canadiens though, he managed to fire eight shots on goal. He took another eight shots on net against the Devils and scored twice.

With Benn out of the lineup against Washington, Seguin managed to put together another two-goal effort in a 2-1 win against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The 26-year-old registered an assist on Dallas’ only goal against Winnipeg, and he followed that up with a three-point effort (two goals, one assist) versus the Blues last night. So overall, he’s picked up six goals and 10 points in his last six outings.

Read More »

Five Places to Visit in Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills is an expensive place with a village-like charm, but it pays to know where to go. Cash Black, a bartender at one of its hot spots, shares his favorites.

Beverly Hills is more approachable than you might expect for a ZIP code typically associated with Lamborghinis and reality stars. It has a surprising number of sidewalk cafes and swaths of greenery. That village-like charm, coupled with residents’ famously refined palates, is what attracted Cash Black to the area seven years ago. “Jewelry. Cars. Wine. Beverly Hills has the best of the best. You don’t get to be here unless you really know what you’re doing,” said Mr. Black, a Las Vegas native, who began as a valet and worked his way up to head bartender at £10, a high-end Scotch bar tucked in the back of the Montage Beverly Hills hotel. He presides over the five-table bar as if it’s his own living room, occasionally bringing in his guitar to jam with clients. At ease with his customers’ seemingly unrestrained wealth (the Lalique crystal tumblers go for $650 apiece), Mr. Black, 31, has a startling command of whisky. (He’s also a cowboy in his spare time, corralling cattle on weekends.) Here, five of Mr. Black’s favorite places in Beverly Hills.

1. Wally’s
Mr. Black’s standards for drinking venues is understandably high, but the bar scene at this visually striking bistro just three blocks from his hotel bar, strikes the right chord. “The bar scene is really nice, the drinks are well made, and the bartenders are attentive,” he said. At the bar, white marble counter-height tables are framed on both sides by mounted wine racks stretching up to the ceiling; and the image of all those bottles (9,000, give or take) is impressive. “There’s a lot of energy in there,” Mr. Black said.

2. Urth Caffe
When Mr. Black’s parents visit from Vegas (his father is a medicinal marijuana grower, and his mother is a barrel racer in the rodeo), this is where they come. The brunch plates are hearty, and the service fast, but it’s the sheer variety of homemade desserts that his parents and many others find so endearing. Banana cream pie. Matcha tiramisù. Coconut royale. The wide-ranging menu is perfect for family-style ordering, too. “My family is one of those that likes to order seven appetizers, and everybody eats everything,” Mr. Black said. He added, “my mom goes nuts for their cakes.” (This is one of eight locations throughout Los Angeles, including a new spot at Los Angeles International Airport.)

3. Momed
Inside this airy, unpretentious Mediterranean restaurant, a deli case displays bowls of colorful Turkish muhammara (a roasted red pepper dip) and creamy hummus, and there’s outdoor seating to enjoy the foot traffic on South Beverly Drive. It’s the perfect setting for an early dinner before Mr. Black starts his nightly shift; the daily happy hour (2:30-5:30 p.m.) has $5 mezze plates, always served with a basket of steaming-warm pita. “It’s a surprisingly good value in a city full of overpriced entrees,” he said.

4. Wallis Annenberg Center
A 1930s post office, now repurposed as a performing arts center — complete with a 500-seat main stage and a 150-seat theater for smaller productions — has become an important community hub in retail-crazed Beverly Hills. It holds special meaning for Mr. Black, who aspired to be an actor when he first moved to Los Angeles. “It’s awesome that the city understands its artist community,” he said, noting the high caliber of recent productions, including “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” and Joe Morton’s one-man stunner “Turn Me Loose.” “We live in the creative capital of the world,” Mr. Black said, but until the center’s opening in 2013, “there weren’t a lot of places you could go to see really good stuff.”

5. Virginia Robinson Gardens
When he’s not pouring $300 whisky shots or juggling last-minute reservations at his bar, Mr. Black drives his black Ford SVT Raptor up North Beverly Drive, taking in the opulence along a route where many movies have been filmed. “These are insane homes. There’s one up there where the whole lawn is just full of statues of different animals.” His favorite retreat? Virginia Robinson Gardens, a six-acre estate built in 1911 with an Australian King Palm forest, a rose garden and a Beaux-Arts mansion. Its now deceased owner, socialite Virginia Dryden Robinson, was known for her extravagant tastes and her high-profile guests (Fred Astaire used to play tennis in the backyard). “She was something of a party girl,” Mr. Black said knowingly. “Or so I’ve heard.”

Read More »