They were too stuffy. Russ Mitchell admits that when the Grant Grill lounge first re-opened, it missed the mark. The lounge is on the ground floor of the 99-year-old, historic U.S. Grant Hotel.
“It was geared to be a high-end, elegant dining experience,” says Mitchell, sales and marketing manager of the hotel. “But in this market, it wasn’t a fit. This market is laid-back, and not as sophisticated as a San Francisco or New York, or even Los Angeles.”
The restaurant/lounge still needed a higher-end concept—but had to be less intimidating. So $250,000 was sunk into a design effort led by La Jolla’s Esteban Lopez.
Lopez opened up the lounge, which had been partitioned, making it difficult for groups to sit and comingle. Lighting effects were added, with new wall fixtures and dangling chandeliers that are historical and classy—but also trendy.
Now, jazz music from the Kevin James Trio plays Wednesday and Thursday nights. And a DJ spins music Friday and Saturday nights.
“We’ve got more energy, and more soul now,” says Mitchell. “We’re pulling guests into the room that in the past seemed to think was too stuffy. We’re getting people in off the streets, too.”
Mitchell says the restaurant—which was left intact during the recent renovation—is roughly flat in revenue, but the lounge has seen a 20-30 percent bump in business in the past two months.
Apparently, even in a historic hotel, soul sells.
Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com and a contributing editor to sandiego.com. His Web site (sandiegoDTOWN.com) is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.