The success of Haven, the roof top F&B outlet on top of the Sanctuary Hotel in New York underlines a trend that will become a wave in our foreseeable future. Roof tops that have long been the domain of air-conditioning units, water towers and other “mechanicals,” will now more and more host bars, lounges and restaurants. It won't be enough for hotels to have rooms with a view. In order to remain competitive roof top F&B will be required. This of course will change the way new construction is thought out and create immense problems in retrofitting existing spaces.
Haven at the Sanctuary Hotel
Hotels must dedicate large high speed elevators to the idea. This was apparent to the operators of the Ganesvoort Hotel in NYC when their Park Avenue entry was built. The rooftop of the Ganesvoort Hotel in Meatpacking surprised everyone with its direct financial rewards and the cache it brought to the brand. The Meatpacking location needed to task elevators meant to bring guests and services to rooms and some rooftop revelers to fit unexpected hordes of partiers. The Park Avenue location was designed with high speed dedicated elevators. Another concern is the noise roof top events and club nights generate. Buffer zones or soundproofing are pre-engineered into projects. Even front desks are trained to put “hipper” or “more energetic” guests into floors that may be affected by DJ's and screaming night lifers.
Sanctuary Hotel in Times Square has its Haven roof. The views and everything else involved are a spectacular conversion of the old Portland Square Hotel to a new boutique hotel model. Amid the glass, neon and steel of Times Square it provide and oasis of cool escape. We caught up with owner Hank Freid and his son Brandon to ask them all about it since they just celebrated the one year anniversary of their rooftop hit.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): You converted the Old Portland Square Hotel into a boutique hotel, The Sanctuary, which opened in 2011. In retrospect what positives and negatives came as surprises?
Hank: There weren’t any negatives. We didn’t think too much about food and beverage in the beginning, Haven was an afterthought and not really planned but it really expanded our brand. It wasn't planned for initially but turned out to be a positive surprise.
Hank Freid and Brandon Freid
NCB: How important is Haven Rooftop to your business model. How does hospitality figure into driving the hotel brand?
Hank: The rooftop turned out to be surprisingly important; it brings in a lot of people and business from Barclays and US Trust to Morgan Stanley and Fox News, which are all in the area. We are a corporate hotel during the week and more of a tour and travel hotel on weekends so we’re able to attract the best of both worlds.
NCB: Tell me about Haven.
Brandon: Haven was created to be a different rooftop than all of the rest; there's no other rooftop in NYC that provides the quality of food that we do. The others are really about drinking, which might have been more profitable but that wasn't what was important to us. We were concerned with providing our customers with a fine dining experience. We're not providing a bar menu, we're doing tartars, capriccio, salmon and home-made desserts crème brulee, flan, chocolate mousse and tiramisu. We have an extensive menu on our roof and pride ourselves on the food being served there. We also have a great lounge atmosphere outdoors with the cabanas, elevated VIP and bar. We're providing it all from fine dining to a fun time here at Haven.
Hank: Because of the success of Haven Rooftop, we are opening three other venues within The Sanctuary, a restaurant/lounge, lobby bar and a speakeasy.
NCB: Josh Shames has come on for programming Haven, what is his role? Is it to grab people staying nearby and in the hotel itself or to attract people as a destination?
Hank: Josh has been in f&b and the hospitality business for quite some time. He is involved in bringing corporate business and social organizations to the rooftop; he is an ambassador for the rooftop and his role is to make contacts with organization's to drive business.
NCB: I saw that bongo players from the Lion King played at the anniversary, how important is Broadway to the Haven?
Hank: Haven Rooftop does a lot of per/post theater business. It has been frequented by many of the Broadway performers including cast members from the Jersey Boys and an after party for Bringing up Bobby.
NCB: Are you tapping into the growing number of young people moving to nearby hell’s kitchen? Is the neighborhood feeding Haven?
Brandon: We're currently being fed by repeat customers from the financial and media worlds in addition to our hotel guests and visitors from around the globe.
NCB: Sanctuary, the word implies an escape from the neon, glass and steel of the surrounding neighborhood, a breath of fresh air, and an oasis of peace; tell me how you achieved that.
Hank: The Sanctuary is just one block from Times Square but is able to achieve its name because of the tranquil environment, Buddhist statues, and lighting and décor.