A TALE OF TWO PATIOS Las Vegas and Vancouver

LAS VEGAS—Ahhh Vegas—where anything can and will happen. Visiting there offers a chance to glimpse what hotels and restaurants can do with huge budgets and unlimited imagination. Not to mention, a warm climate.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

LAS VEGAS—Ahhh Vegas—where anything can and will happen. Visiting there offers a chance to glimpse what hotels and restaurants can do with huge budgets and unlimited imagination. Not to mention, a warm climate.

For example, here in Canada we have nightclubs. And so does Vegas. But they also offer dayclubs. Think of a nightclub, with its beautiful people, pulsating music, exotic alcoholic drinks and then put it into a poolside setting on the roof of a hotel. Add a few hot tubs, cabanas and scantily-clad servers, and the result is intoxicating.

Combine this with desert heat and sunshine, and you have Marquee, the new dayclub on the roof of the Las Vegas Cosmopolitan hotel.

Could a dayclub like this happen in Canada? Say, on the roof of Toronto’s Thompson Hotel with the infinity pool? The Thompson and YYZ Group did come together to throw a lavish Canada Day event that consisted of a private brunch, rooftop pool party, private cocktail soiree, and an all-access dance party.

But, as a rule, our climate makes a dayclub a strictly seasonal proposition.
And in some cases, a dayclub is not what works for a hotel’s clientele.

Pop-up patio in Vancouver

In Vancouver, the Westin Grand Hotel has tried patio pool parties in the past, but this year they came up with something that works much better—the Pop-Up Patio.

“Originally our parties were a lot like the Las Vegas dayclubs, but that’s not what our guests were looking for. It works in Las Vegas, but not necessarily in other cities,” says Mitchell Fawcett, marketing communications manager for O’Neill Hotels & Resorts, which manages the 203-room property near Vancouver’s Yaletown district.

“The idea evolved from the pool parties we used to host in our amazing space on the third floor patio.,” he explains. “Originally, we worked with an outside vendor, but this year, we decided to tailor it more to the type of hotel we are, making it more approachable and casual, with the focus on the patio rather than the pool.”

Portable food prepared live

Working with executive chef Matthew Richmond, the hotel executives asked what they could adapt from the Hidden Tasting Bar & Social Lounge menu that would work on an outdoor patio, had a barbecue element, and could be eaten without a fork and knife. They looked for food that could be prepared in a live action setting—food that was quick, easy, summery and fun to eat while outside in the sun.

Vancouver’s temperamental weather co-operated

“The result has been something that’s blissfully successful for a city as temperamental as Vancouver,” says Fawcett. By mid-August, they only had three rain dates on the Thursdays and Friday evenings when the pop-up patio takes place. “It’s a judgment call—around noon we decide whether or not we will open,” notes Fawcett.

“We are going to extend the patio as long as we can into September, and maybe even October. It’s been so much fun that we want to extend it as long as possible,” says Fawcett.

Comfortable space for 100 people

The patio accommodates 100 people comfortably in soft seating with tables and high-tops. “The space is really well-designed to be a social gathering place,” Fawcett notes.

The disc jockey plays upbeat, summery, background lounge music—not the heart-thumping beats found in a Vegas dayclub.

Pop-up popsicle a signature drink

Drinks have evolved over the summer. One of the latest is the “pop-up popsicle”, a popsicle made with Gewurtztraminer with raspberry, lemon and vanilla. Then you plunk the popsicle in vodka with ginger soda.

“What’s more summery than a popsicle? Our food and beverage supervisor Dan Gibbs had a lot of fun playing with the recipe,” says Fawcett.

Another drink is made with sauvignon blanc and elderflower liqueur. “The elderflower gives it a flowery sweetness, which balances well with the sauvignon, which is on the dry side,” he adds.

A winner for Westin

Guests at this summer’s patios were a mix of locals and hotel guests—often leisure-focused guests who were at the hotel for the weekend. And because of the hotel’s proximity to Yaletown, there was a residential clientele consisting of regulars who already liked the Hidden Tasting Bar & Social Lounge, and others who had never been to the hotel, but just wanted to try the patio.

“It expanded our available space by 100 seats in an area that was mostly empty,” Fawcett notes. “It also raises the profile of the hotel, giving people a reason to check out the patio for social events, weddings and fashion shows.
“Even when the patio closes, some of them will go back to the restaurant, knowing they can get a similar menu,” says Fawcett.

Exclusively social media marketing

Marketing was conducted exclusively on Twitter and Facebook, unless you count the small sandwich-board sign in front of the hotel. “It increased our social media following, with people looking to find out what dishes were cooking and drinks wee were serving. We will definitely do it again next year,” says Fawcett.