I’d heard about the Star Suite before I’d ever been to the Ivy Hotel in San Diego. Details like the two king-size bunk beds decked out with chains on either side, the shower meant for six and the elevated stripper pole in the living room.
A suite like this gives you a pretty good idea of what the Ivy is all about: a place that’s decidedly about play, not slumber.
I like a good party hotel, even better when it’s well designed and not a W knockoff. What I don’t admire is the less- than-keen service one often gets from such places. You’re lucky to get a wakeup call the next morning so you can make the hung- over flight back home.
The 179-room Ivy is in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, a swank historic hotel that was one of the first in town to have bathrooms in all its rooms. The swank went downhill with the neighborhood, and eventually the building became a transient hotel. Today the area is swinging, anchored by the Padres’ Petco Park, visible from my room. The hotel opened after a $98 million renovation in the spring of 2007.
As expected, the check-in staff is attractive, even sweet and efficient. When my two friends and I are shown to our respective rooms, the floor’s butler, Joseph, introduces himself. Butler? After all, the price for a premium room like mine is reasonable at $349.
The room itself is provocative. The sleeping area and bathroom are separated by a clear glass cube — the bathtub/shower. Not only does this put you into the open while lathering, but the large wide windows, outfitted with accordion- style shades, are easy to peer through from the condos across the way. A voyeur’s dream.
Otherwise the room is dominated by the wide king bed, with a headboard that extends along the wall and cantilevers over the ceiling. It’s almost stagelike, a motif underscored by the four floor-to-ceiling mirrors around the space. There’s a nice little lounge area with a couch, plus a small desk with a funky white chair. Still, this is not a place to work, folks.
Another oddity is that the bathtub is almost 3 feet tall and it takes some care to step into and out of. Bad hip? This is not the place for you.
The Ivy’s true attraction is that the party is right at your feet. There’s a full restaurant, a nightclub, and a rooftop pool and bar.
At 8 p.m., my friend Jason decides his leather shoes may not be shiny enough to impress the clientele downstairs, so he rings up the butler. Fifteen minutes later, Joseph already has picked up and delivered newly buffed loafers.
We start off our evening at the Quarter Kitchen, where there’s a coterie of merry singles hanging at the bar, tended to by an even merrier bartender. After martinis, we sit down in the large, airy restaurant space, with high ceilings and acres between tables. (A sure sign we’re not in Manhattan.) We have a good meal, with standouts including an entree of blackened hamachi and a delectable side dish of mixed mushrooms. We never get our water glasses refilled by the absent busboy, but never mind, the second round of martinis shows up soon enough.
Our next step is the nightclub, Envy. Guests get an all- access wristband, though, and we step right through the clamor of locals with no attitude or hassle. (Eden, the rooftop pool and bar, is closed for the night because — what else? — a reality TV show is filming there. They’ve also commandeered the Star Suite and, presumably, that stripper pole.)
Red Satin Nighties
Envy has an upstairs and downstairs level and is sized to feel intimate yet not sardine-packed. The DJ’s music is a hodgepodge, from Human League’s 1981 hit “Don’t You Want Me” (we’re the only ones who seem to know the lyrics) to recent hip- hop and electronica. House dancers, wearing red satin nighties, do a fire-eating show on the stairs.
When it’s time to call it a night, the sound of the party doesn’t permeate our rooms. The management warns that it does get loud on weekends, though, so if you’re not in the mood to be part of the party, best sleep elsewhere because the party will come to you.
The Ivy proves itself in good stead the next morning when the wakeup call does indeed arrive. The headache and the sensation of a fuzzy tongue is partly allayed by a room-service breakfast burrito and large pot of coffee, delivered within 20 minutes.
Soon the bright San Diego day is calling to us. One friend suggests a trail run up the coast at Torrey Pines. A general pause. Or maybe just the pool upstairs.
Ivy Hotel, 600 F Street at 6th Avenue; San Diego; +1-619-814-1000; http://www.ivyhotel.com.
The Bloomberg Questions
Best amenity: The variety of in-house entertainment, including the rooftop-bar scene at Eden and the nightclub Envy.
Service: Surprisingly good, cheerful.
Room service: Efficient, with ample portions.
Bathroom: Very open. Anyone taking a shower is on full display.
Spa: In-room massage services only.
Price: Premium rooms from $349.
(Jason H. Harper writes about travel and autos for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)