EDITION vibe simply sophisticated
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JASON GENEGABUS / email@example.com
If there's one thing I've learned in nearly 10 years of writing about nightlife in this town, it's that a winning formula usually isn't executed seamlessly out of the gate.
With so many variables involved in the process of opening a new venue — whether it be a bar, nightclub, or in last weekend's case, a brand new boutique hotel with global name recognition — it's virtually impossible to get everything 100 percent right on opening day.
So when I stood inside the new Waikiki EDITION last Friday for the first time, just a few feet away from legendary nightclub owner and EDITION developer Ian Schrager, and heard the man acknowledge to the press that "we're not done" working on the property, it was somewhat comforting to this columnist.
"This isn't something pulled out of a catalog," said Schrager. "We're trying to create something new. So you do that, and then you refine.
"It's still very much a work in progress."
The man who made a name for himself as the creator of New York City's Studio 54 nightclub before moving into real estate development was joined by Marriott International's Arne Sorenson (pictured above, at right), and the two men spent nearly an hour talking about how their new hotel was going to impact both Waikiki and the overall nightlife scene in general.
"It's a little bit like opening up a Broadway show, or a movie. … You really want to have an unveiling when everything is completely ready," explained Schrager. "I don't consider myself (to be) in the hotel business. I consider myself in show business."
When asked how the EDITION will affect the local nocturnal landscape, he was unabashedly optimistic.
"We think it's going to hopefully take it up to a place it's never been before," said Schrager. "I hope that we become the center of it. We're going to try and bring to it what we know and like about nightlife, with what the people of Waikiki like also.
"We're trying to create a new genre."
Once Schrager and Sorenson were done addressing the media, they went outside for a few photos before property tours got underway. With a hotel staff member in tow, we started out to explore the rest of the hotel.
WE STARTED at the EDITION's private sunset beach and bar, a man-made replica of nearby Waikiki Beach with more than 100 tons of sand imported from around the state.
A shallow, infinity edge lagoon allows for guests to lounge on chairs in the water, with teak lounges, daybeds and Brazilian hammocks also set up on the sand. And according to the hotel, the nearby bar offers 270-degree views of the Pacific Ocean.
Downstairs from the private sunset beach, the EDITION's sunrise pool and bar is another area that will be popular among hotel guests and outside visitors alike.
While only guests will be allowed in the water, the general public is welcome to sit at either the upstairs or downstairs bars and enjoy the scenery. More than 20 mature trees, indigenous to Hawaii, have been planted in a man-made grove around the sunrise bar, with plenty of other flora and manicured hedges helping to give the space a much more natural look.
And just a few feet from the pool deck, there's an area in the shade that offers couches to sit on and people watch without having to sit directly in the sun.
Nearby Morimoto Waikiki held its soft opening a while before last weekend's big coming out party, so more than a few people have already been inside the restaurant.
Besides his rockstar personality, chef Masaharu Morimoto is already impressing folks with his dedication and willingness to jump in and actually prepare food for customers instead of standing in the back and "supervising" from afar.
Like other outdoor areas at the EDITION, it's not just about the food at Morimoto. Ask to be seated outside and you'll enjoy some of the same seating arrangements and spectacular views available elsewhere on the property.
The artsy planters near the entrances are pretty cool, too.
THERE'S NOT much to the front desk here. Just a simple working area for hotel employees — and a crazy, custom art installation by former professional surfer Herbie Fletcher that features more than 100 recycled surfboards harvested from the sport's top pros, including Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Mick Fanning, Bruce Irons and others.
Built into the layout of the Waikiki EDITION are a few spaces that seem to close up on themselves when they don't need to be seen.
This lobby level shop, for instance, features doors that rotate open, rather than slide. That concept is duplicated with the hotel's lobby bar, which is hidden behind a bookcase that can be opened and shut depending on the time of day or individual event requirements.
AFTER THE lobby, we proceeded upstairs to check out one of the EDITION's 353 guest rooms. (There's also a 1,500 square-foot penthouse space available in the hotel, but we weren't allowed to see it last weekend because it was occupied by singer Christina Aguilera.)
Each is outfitted with custom beds, 46-inch LCD televisions and sliding louvered doors to offer shuttered shade to guests. The decor isn't overstated, with small touches of Hawaii throughout and a simple design that appears to be of the quality expected for luxury accomodations such as these.
WHICH BRINGS us to the one part of the EDITION that I've yet to experience — Crazybox. It's easy to dismiss the hotel's answer to an on-premises nightclub as a space you'd be happy to just read about here on the Pulse.
The room is tiny — pack a few hundred bodies into the place and it's real easy to get claustrophobic. There are very few places to sit in the club, which is in fact shaped like a box. A few rows of bleacher-like seating can make you feel like you're at the luxury version of a high school dance inside the campus gymnasium. And can you get down with shelling out $11 or more for a cocktail?
Except this isn't high school. The music is waaaaaay better, thanks to new resident DJs ESKAE, Compose and Anit. The crowd is much better looking, thanks to a highly selective admission policy at the front door.
Don't ask how you're supposed to get on "The List" — all we keep hearing is that you better dress stylish, bring lots of good-looking women with you (if you're a guy) and pray to whatever entity you believe in that you'll recognize someone you know working the door. Otherwise, get ready to wait in line for quite a while, and remember there's always a chance you simply won't get in at all.
Access is understandably limited so close to the hotel's grand opening, and it's a good bet Crazybox will be one of Honolulu's hottest nightspots for the next few months. The vibe is very Hollywood, with touches of New York City and Miami's South Beach. If you're looking to get dressed up, be seen, and hopefully even see a couple of major Hollywood celebrities while you're there, then this club is for you.
We'll see, however, if that mainland mentality will end up working in the long run, especially if the star power at Crazybox fizzles out. Along with penthouse guest Aguilera, the club's grand opening weekend saw Danny Masterson, Whitney Port, Kevin Dillon, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Luis Guzman, Will Forte and Vanessa Hudgens show up to see what 40,000 recycled lightbulbs look like (Crazybox's ceiling is blanketed with them).
That's a great turnout for opening weekend, but unless the EDITION commits itself to flying celebs out here and sponsoring their stays in exchange for public appearances, I wouldn't be surprised if the big names stop getting mentioned within a year. If they do show up, they'll want to remain under the radar, which typically means you won't hear about their visits until after they've checked out and left on their private jets.
I'm also concerned with the abundance of employees who have moved to Hawaii for their new jobs. On opening night I recognized a few locals working behind the bars and as security, but most (if not all) top management jobs at the hotel are held by people not originally from these islands. That can be dangerous in a market that relies so heavily on the Aloha Spirit, but Schrager was confident it won't be much of an issue.
"(Features and amenities) are not enough anymore, if you really don't have this kind of great, personal, gracious service," he said. "We're sort of leading that, going off into our own space. To do the provocative design, but to also have the great service.
"And not the 'how may I help you,' but really personal, charming, gracious service."
Schrager is no stranger to the boutique hotel concept — many credit him as one of its originators. So don't count the man out when he says he thinks Waikiki is a great fit for his vision of what the EDITION brand is supposed to represent.
BUT IT will be interesting to see how things play out over the years to come. I see lots of similarities when you compare the EDITION and Crazybox to places like the W Honolulu's "Wonderlounge" in the '90s and 2000's and the old "Spybar" parties of more than a decade ago.
In more recent years, Flash Hansen and Matty Hazelgrove elevated the perception of what a luxury nightlife event was in this town with their "SKYLiNE" party at the Hanohano Room, and Pearl Ultralounge brought a more Las Vegas-style approach in regards to dress code and VIP access at the Ala Moana nightspot when it opened in 2006.
Even if Crazybox remains one of Honolulu's hardest parties to crash for us common folk, that doesn't mean the EDITION isn't worth a visit. Forget the club experience and hang out at one of the hotel's pool bars, or stick to the lobby bar, which is probably where you'll find this columnist more often than not.
What do I really hope will happen? I'd like to see the Ewa end of Waikiki get a boost from the addition of the EDITION, where people will also spend time at neighboring businesses before (or after) making their way to the new kid on the block.
If Sarento's was smart, they'd be scrambling to find a way to update its own ultralounge concept in order to pick off some of those people who don't make it into Crazybox. Buffalo Wild Wings could also benefit from its close proximity to the hotel. And I'd love to see Harbor Pub become the new "secret" spot for those looking to save some bucks and pregame there before walking across the street.
Time will tell.
Video edited by Jason Genegabus / firstname.lastname@example.org