by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
The end of austerity
In early 2014 following 4 successive years of severe belt tightening and austerity Ireland officially exited the bailout programme imposed by our masters in Europe. The years of hardship were not good for the hospitality sector in Ireland with many hotels re-possessed by the banks, a race to the bottom regarding rates and at least two international chains leaving town – first Ritz Carlton and now, sadly, Four Seasons. In this context it’s especially pleasing to welcome a brand new hotel to Dublin and one which, by all accounts, has ambitions to bring something new and exciting to the city.
The Dean Dublin is a 52 room boutique property located on Harcourt Street, grand central of Dublin’s lively club scene. With beautiful irony it has taken over a building formerly occupied by a major bank, a nice reversal of the dynamic of recent years when banks took over hotels. It’s co-owned by Paddy McKillen Junior, owner of a plethora of cool bars and restaurants around the city and scion of the McKillens who co-own The Clarence Hotel with Bono and The Edge. In other words the owner has form and that can be seen throughout the edgy, industrial style interiors of the newly opened hotel which are zeitgeisty and on trend with what’s happening in London and New York City.
Finding its feet
Having read the recent media reports I dropped in for a look around and found a neophyte hotel finding its feet, a bit like an insecure, new born foal. You can see all the potential there, it’s just needs time for the service protocols to catch up with its grand ambitions. The ground floor is fashionably dimly lit and combines a check-in area (over which there’s a LED sign saying “I fell in love here”) with a club style lobby bar. It’s all re-cycled wood, bare concrete, marble topped tables and retro work chairs. There’s a big ass barista machine but no barista when I visited who knew how to make a flat white. I settled for an Americano which, it seems, is made with Clement & Pekoe coffee. There’s also a Rotisserie bar in the lobby area so be prepared to get a major attack of the munchies if you’re on-line in the lobby about noontime when the aroma of roast chicken and rib beef wafts past you. There are decks in evidence too so at night, I imagine, there’s a deep bass rhythm to mark out your Margarita consumption.
The entire fifth floor of The Dean is given over to food and beverage and includes a Restaurant, Bar and Rooftop terrace. Called Sophie’s, it’s basically a massive glass box providing unparalleled views of the city skyline. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and brunch at weekends Sophie’s has a decided New York / Italian focus across its menus selections. The room is dominated by a huge bar located in the centre of the room with comfortably upholstered seating booths lining the perimeter. On one side there are two enormous real Olive Trees and, on another, a large bench table which provides “hot desk” facilities for laptops.
There was nobody available to show me the guest rooms – the sales and marketing people appear to be located off-site – but the website shows some truly different configurations including punk bunks and unapologetically “small and cool” guest rooms at a truly cozy 12.6 sqm. The higher level rooms are 26 sqm but kitted out with “Supersized bed. Blistering power shower. Grafton Barber goodies. Irish mega-munch hamper. 50” Samsung Smart TV. Netflix. Rega RP1 record player. Classic vinyl. Loaded SMEG. Nespresso. Tonnes more”. Once the on-site service starts to match the cheeky confidence of the copy here, we’ll have a great hotel.
Bang on trend
The Dean is definitely on trend as regards the expectations of the rapidly expanding Gen Y market. This is a generation that seeks authenticity over luxury, local over global, diversity over uniformity. This is the generation that is causing Starbucks to radically alter its business model, strip itself of generic corporate branding and present itself as a local coffee hang-out joint again. When they travel Gen Y explorers want to stay in a hotel where there’s a buzzing local scene. They want to be treated like a local and experience the destination from the inside. Hotels like The Dean are set up around the vibrant, dynamic local community scene that Gen Y craves for. Throughout its on-line collateral The Dean positions itself as a happening place for locals, a place to meet for breakfast, a location where you can sit and surf on your laptop, an outlet that welcomes hot deskers, that understands how we live and move in this second decade of the twenty first century. It takes its inspiration from The Ace Hotel (picture above) in New York and London, the Gladstone and the Drake Hotels in Toronto, Casa Camper in Barcelona and Berlin.
It’s a heartily welcome addition to the hotel scene in Dublin.
SoolNua would like to congratulate Brian Davern, General Manager of The Dean and the latest in an auspicious line of Davern brothers to bring excellence in hotel keeping to Ireland and beyond.
With his partner Patrick Delaney, Padraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a boutique marketing agency working with destinations and hotels on strategy around meetings, incentives, conferences and events