The Himalayan-salt lamps are lit. The minibars are full of yerba mate shots. The bathrooms are stocked with sustainable soap from Australia that smells like bergamot and status. The new Eaton DC hotel is about to open, and everything is ready to share with customers—including the aggressively lefty point of view that has earned it an unusual amount of attention.
Eaton DC’s progressive concept is the brainchild of Katherine Lo, whose father, Lo Ka Shui, is the billionaire founder of a Hong Kong real-estate empire and the Langham hotel chain. The hotel—on K street near Franklin Square—is the first US outpost of the fledgling Eaton brand. Lo is mostly based in California, but she’s been living in Shaw as she puts the finishing touches on the Eaton’s in-house radio station, Tim Ma restaurant, and music venue. The hotel will sponsor lectures, offer “wellness activations,” and, she hopes, serve as an incongruously luxe gathering spot for the “grassroots people of DC.”
The idea has been greeted with cynicism in some quarters: Isn’t this just an eight-story, 209-room attempt to monetize the resistance? But Lo is counting on skeptics coming around once it opens. “Certain people think we’re just a hotel that wants to make money and all the rest is gimmicks or marketing,” she says. “But we are really passionate about these values.”
Though it’s easy to read Eaton DC as a counterpart to the Trump International, which is just six blocks down 12th Street, the project actually got started before the 2016 election. The idea is to emphasize equality, inclusivity, and diversity, along with “social and environmental good, community, and art,” Lo says. Everyone is welcome, she insists, before adding: “Maybe not hate groups.” Did she think about scaling back the liberal signifiers after Trump’s election and the ensuing culture-war escalation? “It was actually like, wow, we should amp it up,” she says.
Asked what would happen if, say, Corey Lewandowski came by for a drink, Lo smiles. “We’re working out our approach to those situations,” she says. “If a group books a conference and we don’t agree with their views, we’ll donate the proceeds to a cause they probably wouldn’t support.” Still, the typical Eaton guest will likely lean more NPR than CPAC: “They could be in their twenties or seventies, but they’re spiritually of the same mindset. Neo-beatnik, left-leaning, literary, intellectual, artistic. Someone who is nourished and inspired by being here. That person.”
This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Washingtonian.