While not yet at the stage of bona fide hotel wars, there are two new hotels opening in Georgetown in April and both hope to win customers away from the established luxury leaders, the Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton.
The Capella Georgetown and the Graham Georgetown, both in the final stages of makeover construction, are separated by only one block and the C&O Canal. Both are boutique style. The Capella will have 49 rooms, a quarter of them suites, while the Graham says all 57 of its rooms will be suites. Both hotels offer rooftop bars, but the Capella’s, with a swimming pool, will, as of the moment, be only for hotel guests. The Capella has made a fanfare of hiring a “resident stylist,” which we interpret as an in-house personal shopper to help guests put together the appropriate Washington look, if needed.
The Capella’s principal owner is Bruce Bradley, through Castleton Hotel Partners, where he is president and managing partner. He founded the parent company, Castleton Holdings, in 1993, which until the Capella was focused only on commercial buildings, and in particular embassy buildings. In an October phone interview, Bradley gave us a preview of the Capella.
Mast Capital of Miami owns the Graham. Its CEO is Camilo Miguel Jr., who was unavailable when we phoned. His representative sent a press release in which Miguel calls DC “one of the most exclusive hospitality markets in the country.” He says the Graham, which formerly was known as the Monticello, was “a rare acquisition opportunity.” He’s high on Georgetown, too. “The people, the energy, and the sophistication of the clientele all contribute to the uniqueness of this location,” the press release reads.
The release lists the Graham’s features as a 1,000-square-foot “sleek new cocktail lounge,” which has yet to be named, and a 3,000-square-foot rooftop bar with views of the Washington Monument, the Kennedy Center, and Georgetown University. Both will have bar food menus. There will be a 24-hour fitness center and afternoon tea service.
Both hotels plan to have opening parties. The Capella opening is expected for early April, and already reservations can be made online. Last week, The Washingtonian got a sneak peek at the press release announcing that the Capella will have a 70-seat restaurant, the Grill Room, serving lunch and dinner and adjoining the Rye Bar, with both overlooking the C&O Canal. Chef Jakob Esko said the planned menu is European and Mediterranean, with tableside preparations of steak tartare, among other specialties. A “Champagne cart” will be on hand in the Grill, offering eight to ten labels of Grand Cru and Premier Cru Champagnes by the glass. The bar will be cozy—just 26 seats—and the patrons in those seats will no doubt be talking about the “ice program,” which allows them to choose among chips from a whole block of ice, hand-pressed rounds of ice, or cubes made from stainless steel.
While no one will go on the record, the management of the Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown are watching with curiosity. They will tell you that, so far, the new hotels are creating buzz, but whether they are serious competition won’t be known until after they open. The established hotels’ public stance is “no sweat.”
There’s also curiosity about what’s happening with the Latham, which closed suddenly last summer due to what has been publicly described only as “water damage.” Gossip on the street is that structural work needs to be done before the mid-priced hotel can be reopened. What its closing cost Washington was the acclaimed Citronelle restaurant, which shut down at the same time as the hotel. Last October, chef Michel Richard said he thought the restaurant and hotel would reopen in June. But a message today on the hotel’s website says “late 2013.” In response to an inquiry on Monday, Richard’s representative would say only, “We don’t have any further information on the timing of Citronelle’s reopening.”