TORONTO – Bisha Hotel Toronto designer Alessandro Munge of Toronto’s highly successful Studio Munge is talking about his relationship with Bisha owner and developer Charles Khabouth.
Munge has been friends with the Toronto nightclub and entertainment impresario for two dozen years and knows what he likes and what pushes his buttons.
“It’s a constant push for quality, quality, quality,” Munge told a group of journalists on a preview tour Wednesday afternoon. “If it’s exciting, he’s okay with it. But if not, well, ….”
I’m no designer, but I’ve seen a lot of hotels in my day and I can safely say I don’t think Munge has to worry about losing his relationship with Khabouth, or losing his touch. The tour he took us on revealed an absolutely first-rate design sense and showed off a hotel that will quite striking and quite different from anything else on the market when it opens in September (or even late August) on Blue Jays Way in the Entertainment District. (They’re aiming for just before the Toronto International Film Festival, which is smart as it’s centred right around the corner).
The lobby features a black, white and grey floor with four kinds of marble and a reception desk that’s clad in laser-cut metal. There’s art work coming from some of Canada’s and the world’s best artists, including Damien Hirst and the late Andy Warhol. The lobby bar will dark mohair walls, dark green lacquer finishes, a white onyx bar and, at one end, a fireplace encircled by a ring of shiny gold.
I wrote about the Akira Back restaurant in this space the other day, although it won’t open until October or perhaps later. There’s also a patio out front (nice) and a 24-hour café slated for the main floor.
The rooms are quite substantial, mostly 300 to 400 square feet, and they all have an entry way with the sizable bathroom off to one side and the bedroom area off to the other, giving rooms a residential, spacious feel I think guests will enjoy. The TV is inside a huge mirror, which gives the room a nice feeling of space when the power is off.
They’ll be using Bal d’Afrique toiletries in the rooms, a Canadian company. I was tempted to nab one of the body lotion kits as they smelled lovely, but I somehow resisted.
One floor, which we didn’t get to see, is being designed by rock star Lenny Kravitz and his design team; another cool selling point.
The upper floors (above the condo floors) will be a huge selling point, with awesome event space looking out on downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario on the 43rd floor and a similar view on the rooftop, which has a long infinity pool overlooking the city and space that will be a lounge during the day and a dining spot at night. The tables near the protective glass walls will be in huge demand in summer.
There will be 96 rooms in all, 13 of them suites.
Khabouth, CEO of INK Entertainment in Toronto, took a few minutes to address the crowd, talking mostly about the importance of service.
“There’s no room in this industry for people who don’t love people,” he said. “It’s not just saying, ‘How was your meal,’ it has to come from the heart.”
Khabouth jokingly told the group he’s been planning the hotel for 15 years and would like to go global.
“My goal is 120 hotels in the next 15 years,” he said.
Khabouth said Toronto “is becoming one of the top five cities in the world.”
He said when he’d go to L.A. even five years ago people didn’t quite know what the city was. “But now, when I say Toronto people listen.”
No doubt the Bisha will help make the word “Toronto” resonate even more.
TOP WORLD INSTAGRAM SPOTS
An item on the Newsday website says that Toronto’s own CN Tower is the 11th most photographed landmark (or at least the 11th most hashtagged landmark) on the planet. That’s a bit surprising in some ways, as it puts what was once the world’s tallest freestanding structure higher on the list than such notable places as The Taj Mahal and even Buckingham Palace. Then again, it IS a very large tower and it’s in a huge city that’s very close to not only millions of Canadians but tens of millions of Americans who want to come up and take advantage of our low dollar and gaze longingly at photos of Justin Trudeau with his shirt off. So perhaps it’s not surprising we almost made the top 10. Still, if we’re as interesting as Charles Khabouth says we are, we must do better. I mean, I can think of a ton of things in the city that are FAR more attractive and interesting to take photos of, including The Ontario College of Art and Design, the interior of the new Art Gallery of Ontario by architect Frank Gehry, Sugar Beach, the Distillery District, the Humber Bay Bridge.
For the record, here are the top 25. Note how London placed three landmarks in the top seven and NYC had two in the top eight.
1. Eiffel Tower, Paris
2. Big Ben, London
3. Grand Canyon, Arizona
4. London Eye, London
5. Empire State Building, New York City
6. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
7. Tower Bridge, London
8. Statue of Liberty, New York City
9. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
10. Colosseum, Rome
11. CN Tower, Toronto
12. Machu Picchu, Peru
13. Burj al Arab, Dubai
14. Taj Mahal, India
15. Buckingham Palace, London
16. Arc de Triomphe, Paris
17. Sydney Opera House, Australia
18. Sacre Couer, Paris
19. Stonehenge, England
20. Chichen Itza, Mexico
21. Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles
22. Great Wall of China
23. Willis Tower, Chicago
24. Trevi Fountain, Rome
25. Golden Temple, Amritsar, India
HOTEL CANCELLATION POLICIES – UH OH
The days of being able to cancel your hotel room within a few hours of your stay appear to be over. As Chris McGinnis reports in his San Francisco Chronicle blog, Hilton Hotels are joining Marriott/Starwood in bringing in new policies that require a 48-hour notice. Best be careful, folks.