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Tuesday, Mar 21, 2023

Hotels Game for Anything

Ping-Pong, bowling, Scrabble, Jenga – sounds like summer camp? Check again: Several of L.A.’s trendiest hotels are hoping to attract local residents and out-of-towners alike by offering such games. But it’s not just for fun, we’re talking business.

By opening game rooms and staging game nights, hotels such as Mondrian Los Angeles on the Sunset Strip, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Standard in downtown Los Angeles and Westwood’s W Hotel Los Angeles provide 20- and 30-somethings an alternative to the area’s guest-list-only nightclub scene. At the same time, the games give guests a reason to stay in for the night and spend money at the hotel, and think about coming back again.

“What they are trying to do in most cases is create a buzz,” said Robert Patterson, president at Los Angeles hospitality consultancy Paradigm Hospitality. “They want to create an overall image of the hotel as a place that’s happening. Hopefully that translates to people staying in the hotel, and generates incremental revenue particularly for the food and beverage facilities from the local populace.”

The arrival of the hotel games comes as the industry is recovering from the beating it took during the recession. The occupancy rate at L.A.-area hotels increased 4.7 percent in January to 70 percent, compared with 67 percent during the same month last year, according to the most recent information available from PKF Consulting USA. Revenue per available room, a key measure of the financial health of hotels, jumped 5.4 percent to $103.15 during the same period. In comparison, the occupancy rate was at 75 percent in January 2007, while revenue per available room was $113 that month.

“Things are a little better now, but hotels in general aren’t back to the level of profitability that they enjoyed during the middle of the decade,” Patterson said. “So anything they can do to enhance revenue and drive profits they are going to want to try.”

At downtown’s Standard, known for its glamorous rooftop pool parties, people can stop by Tuesday evenings for Rec Room. The game night, staged in the hotel’s lobby, includes a giant custom-made Scrabble board that people play on to compete for prizes such as gift certificates to the hotel shop, restaurant or rooftop bar.

Emily Nerad, marketing coordinator at Standard, said Rec Room was inspired by basement playrooms that were popular way back when. To match the ambience, the hotel has a special menu for game night, including homemade Chex Mix and pretzel dogs. Rec Room, which launched last year but the hotel has just started marketing it, allows the Standard to cater to downtown’s growing residential population and attract people who work in the area.

“We mean to drive business and bring different people into the hotel and create an atmosphere that’s conducive to that,” Nerad said.

Perfect score

Mondrian was one of the first local hotels to serve up games. Executives teamed with Spin, a table tennis social club created in New York by actress Susan Sarandon and a trio of entrepreneurs, to launch Spin Hollywood during the summer.

Spin is a pop-up concept in the hotel’s ADCB lounge. There are two Ping-Pong tables so hotel guests and locals can play a friendly game or compete in tournaments organized by the hotel.

“People make an evening out of it,” said Kim Walker, senior vice president for brand marketing at New York’s Morgans Hotel Group, which owns Mondrian. “It’s also been a great place for families to go to during the day or for guests who want to hang out.”

Spin is set to be replaced with another concept during the next several months.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel unveiled its two-lane bowling alley and game parlor, Spare Room, earlier this year.

The 1920s-inspired lanes, built in a converted storage closet, includes two bars, a DJ booth, photo booth and numerous tables where people can play a game of Monopoly or chess on custom-made boards. There are plans to start serving food, and even sell bowling shoes and other items such as Spare Room-branded playing cards in the coming months.

Nightlife entrepreneurs and business partners Marc Rose and Med Abrous pitched the Spare Room concept to Roosevelt executives, and so far it’s been a hit among local hipsters and hotel guests. On popular nights such as Fridays and Saturdays, reservations for a bowling lane – $100 an hour! – or even a game table are booked well in advance.

Rose said the addition of Spare Room gives Angelenos a reason to hang out at the hotel and gives guests a reason to forego venturing out.

“We see this as not only a great locals’ bar, but it’s a great amenity for hotel guests,” Rose said.

Jason Pomeranc of New York-based Thompson Hotels, which manages Roosevelt, agrees.

“We want to create an all-encompassing experience like a resort,” Pomeranc said.

While Roosevelt’s Spare Room is reminiscent of the era of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, W Los Angeles in Westwood has taken a more modern approach.

The hotel launched its WTF: Whiskey Tech Fun video game tournaments earlier this month.

The event, staged every second Wednesday of the month, features teams of four who compete against each other in music video dancing games such as “Just Dance 2” or “Michael Jackson: The Experience.” The hotel offers food and drink specials such as free bottles of alcohol for participants in addition to $7 cocktails and appetizers for friends who come to cheer them on.

Michelle Ravelo-Santos, public relations and marketing manager at W Los Angeles, said the hotel wanted to create a different type of experience.

“The drinks and food just aren’t pulling the people anymore,” said Ravelo-Santos. “This creates a fun atmosphere for a group of friends or several different groups to come together and be in one place.”

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