Oklahoman Business Writer Steve Lackmeyer hosted his weekly OKC Central Live Chat on Friday at the recently opened Ambassador Hotel in Midtown with owner Paul Coury and General Manager Jeff Erwin. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation with NewsOK readers. OKC Central Live Chat is hosted every Friday at 10 a.m.
Q: You have hotels in Tulsa, Kansas City, Wichita and now Oklahoma City. What made you all decide to stay and operate hotels here versus opening hotels in larger markets?
Paul Coury: We focus more on regional, second-tier markets. Our goal is to expand into bigger cities over the next five years.
Q: What is one thing Midtown is lacking that you think would make a big impact on the area?
Coury: A parking garage is the biggest thing. All the other things are in place; residential, bars, restaurants, retail. It’s a good mix. It’s a very charming area.
Q: What made you all decide on the Osler building in Midtown versus some of the other older buildings in other parts of the city?
Coury: This building has always caught my eye. It looked like a hotel to me. It was a historical building, which is something I try to do. The area seemed ready for it.
Q: There is so much development going on in your immediate vicinity (Edge apartments, Fassler/Dust bowl, H&8th, Saints Anthony’s, Food Truck court, etc). Which development are you most excited about?
Coury: The Ambassador Hotel (laughs). I think the food trucks are fun. They’ve been very successful in Tulsa on Guthrie Greens. I think it will bring a whole other element of people. I’m seeing elsewhere they’re doing retail trucks, where they have boutique clothing — it looks so cool. People were lined up. I think this will be the next wave. It’s portable. You move it to the people.
Q: What were some of the challenges with the Osler building that you weren’t expecting?
Coury: It was tight — we didn’t have a lot of space for mechanical and the floor plates were small. We had to add exceptionally large staircases on the back.
Q: Great job assembling what is maybe the best bar staff in the city. When do you think food service will start in the O Bar and what is the timeline for the pool and fire pit to be open?
Jeff Erwin: Food service at O Bar will begin in about two weeks. It will consist of late snacks in happy hour and we will transition into desserts late night. As soon as we get consistently warm weather, the pool will open. The fire pit will be on the same timetable.
Q: Is Midtown poised to get a parking garage anytime soon?
Steve Lackmeyer: I think it’s safe to say that Midtown Renaissance Group will look at a garage when they decide it’s needed and can sustain itself.
Q: What would’ve been your second choice for an Ambassador Hotel, if you couldn’t get the Osler building?
Coury: To be honest, we looked. We looked at several other buildings. But we came back to this when the state upheld the state historic tax credits. That was critical. We were looking at this building and then put it on hold when the state (Legislature) put a moratorium on (tax credits).
Q: A few friends went to the O Bar this past weekend for his birthday and said is was a great place to have a drink and just hang out with friends. Where was the rooftop bar on your list of things to have? Was there ever a thought of it being in the first floor lobby?
Coury: A rooftop bar has always been my vision. I knew it could set this property apart from everything else.
Q: It seemed like you timed your opening to coincide with the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Was that as good kick-start to your opening as it seemed (I noticed lots of people walking from the arena to midtown)?
Erwin: Absolutely it was a goal to be open prior to the NCAA tournament to capture that great piece of business.