I have been to the mountain and I’m back…
And I can now tell you that aside from its many sports, pizza and coffee bar offerings, the two-year-old Oread hotel high atop the University of Kansas campus is a bust.
At least as an upscale hotel.
It kicks ass as a sports bar hang for thirsty KU students and out-of-town parents. But its stately stone facade makes promises that the eleven-story ediface doesn’t come close to delivering on.
Despite its critics, the Oread fits in just fine with the other classic stone structures that dot the nearby KU campus.
But here’s the deal…
From the outside the Oread looks like an elegant, grand hotel – from the outside. However, after dropping $200 on one of the Oread’s "King Suite" rooms on New Year’s Eve (and staying in a lesser room a year ago), I can report that it’s basically little more than a glorified Comfort Inn, minus the standard issue, in-room coffee pot.
I don’t know if they ran out of money mid-project or simply hired a really bad decorator, but the Oread’s stark, souless, cookie-cutter rooms are adorned with mostly cheap furniture and empty walls, sparsely populated by faux art prints of old barns, cattle and meandering stone walls. Clearly not the stuff of an upscale hotel. Not even close.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s new and it’s nice but ceiling fans with plastic, fake wood blades?
The bottom line on the Oread experience: think upscale cheap.
Then there’s the restaurant, which early on locals buzzed was supposed to be a pretty big deal. I almost bought into that at first a year ago until I visited the Oread’s Web site and learned the chef had come from a Westport brewpub. That’s been remedied.
But when was the last time you ordered Caesar salad and got overdressed shredded cole slaw-like lettuce with sweet croutons?
Or when was the last time you stayed at an upscale hotel that provided ear plugs along with a note that reads – and I quote – "We hope you enjoy the vibrant nightlife that is ever present so near the KU campus. Unfortunately, this fun is often accompanied by late night noise. Please make use of the complimentary ear plugs if you feel necessary. Have a good night’s sleep!"
Then again, maybe it’s just me.
My King room came with a pair of massive 52-inch LED screens. Enabling one to easily host a Super Bowl or Final Four gang bang with a dozen of your closest, noisiest Jayhawks.
Then there’s the Cave nightclub.…
"Imagine a multi-tiered parking garage that’s been converted into the sleekest speakeasy ever, and you’ve kind of got The Cave," the Lawrence Journal World writes. "The Cave isn’t really one club but a series of ‘pocket bars’ scattered throughout the four sub-levels."
Self-described as"Lawrence’s Hottest Nightclub," the Oread promises to charge all of the Cave’s regular $5 to $10 cover charges to your room.
"Come to the front desk to obtain a Cave pass," a brochure advises. "After obtaining your pass, you will be escorted down the elevator to join the fun."
The $64 million question: If a fire or fight breaks out, how quickly can the throngs in the four-level, multi-bar club be escorted out?
"They must have made a deal with the fire marshall to get that thing approved," quips one local nightclub owner.
And talk about excessive hedonism, the Cave’s New Year’s Eve package (at $40 to $45 per person) came with a whopping 15 drink tickets. Fifteen drinks per person?
Anybody remember that KU freshman who died of alcohol poisoning two years ago?
KCC music man and Lawrence resident Matt Donnelly‘s take on the Cave:
"Among locals it’s known mostly as a bro hangout," Donnelly says. "They usually have dance-type music being played by lower level DJs with laptops. I know that it does get packed sometimes, but I never even think to go there. Then again, I’m not a bro.
"It is a bit odd, too, that it’s so far underground. That could be a cool concept, but with all the stone and heavy metal fixtures and stuff, it kind of makes it feel like a medieval dungeon. That juxtaposed against flatscreens and martini bars just turns it into a weird concept for me."