I've stayed in just about every chain of hotels in the U.S., but I hadn't stayed at a Loews hotel before. But I happened to stay in the Loews Denver hotel when I was there for the CEDIA Expo a couple weeks ago.
Loews is headquartered out of New York City and they operate 20 high end business class hotels throughout America and Canada. In 2005, Business Travel News magazine named the Loews hotels as the best hotel chain in the "upper up-scale" category of hotels.
The Loews Denver is located toward the south side of town near the Cherry Creek area (see map). There's a large office building next to it, but the surrounding area is littered with strip malls, apartment complexes and mediocre restaurants. It looks completely out of place compared to its surroundings.
The decor style of the Denver Loews is a Tuscany theme. In fact, their on-site restaurant is called Tuscany. More about the restaurant later on. The entry way and lobby was very nice and ornate. It made a very good first impression on me when I entered the property.
It went downhill from there...
I roomed with one of my colleagues from Montreal and when we entered the room, the unmistakable smell of smoke was in the non-smoking room. I immediately called the front desk and I asked if we could change rooms. They said that wasn't possible as the hotel was fully booked. I said that the room was unacceptable and we weren't going to stay in the room. She said she would call me back.
The manager called me back and said that she was sorry, no other rooms were available. But she would send up someone from maintenance with a deodorizing machine. This guy, who spoke no English, came in about 15 minutes later with a little machine that was an ionized air-purifier. He turned it on and left. It seemed to help, but after awhile we sort of forgot about the smell.
Other than the nice view of the front range of the Rockies, and the nice beds, I was kind of disappointed in the room. The decor was really tired.
Actually, the whole hotel was kind of tired. The carpeting in front of the elevators looked like it was put down in the 80's and hadn't been replaced. I've stayed in hotels that were a third of the price of the room we were staying in at Loews that were nicer than the room we had.
Another bitch - no free internet. It cost us $9.95 a day for internet service. Come on - a first class business hotel charging for internet? There was a Hampton Inn and Suites just down the street that I know wasn't charging for internet at half the price of the room we were in.
The first night we were there, we were all tired from traveling so we just decided to go try the Tuscany restaurant in the hotel. Of course, it was an Northern Italian themed restaurant that, at first glance, was somewhat overpriced on the menu. What the hell. We went for it.
I had the shrimp and scallops and was talked into getting a side dish of these horseradish potato slices. The shrimp and scallops were OK, but for six shrimp and three scallops they were overpriced at $28.95. And the horseradish potato slices were, well, they were embarrassingly overpriced. For six bucks I got three stacks of half-dollar sized slices - I believe six slices in a stack - with a little dollop of whipped horseradish sauce on top. It was so bad, we were laughing at the damn things.
We had breakfast each morning at the restaurant and our group size would go from 8 to 14 throughout the time we were there. Each time - and it didn't matter how big our group was - it would take exactly a half hour for our food to get to us after we'd ordered. And it wasn't all that great. But it was expensive. Two eggs, hash browns, a side of ham, bacon or sausage and toast was $11.95.
And getting bath soap was an ordeal. Usually, most hotels replenish the soap every day. Not at the Loews Denver. In fact, I had to ask the front desk to have more bath soap brought to our room after the fourth day we were there. The front desk girl said she'd have housekeeping take care of it while we went out to dinner.
We came back and sitting on our vanity counter in the bathroom were four towels. No soap. I called the front desk and said, "Hi. I asked for soap and they brought towels. No soap. We didn't need the towels. We need bath soap." She apologized and said she'd have housekeeping take care of it right away.
About 10 minutes later, there was a knock at the door. My colleague, Simon, opened the door and there was a maid with SIX towels in her arms. She said, in choppy English, "I no understand. I give you four towels before."
Simon said, "No, SOAP! You know, soap?" And he started to pantomime washing his chest and under his arms. She got this startled look on her face and said, "Oh, SOAP!! Si, soap." She brought some soap back while I was down at the bar.
Speaking of the bar, it was nothing special. Pretty small, actually. You could get standard bar food in there - burgers, sandwiches, salads. A cheeseburger with fries was $11.95. I don't even want to know what a double shot of Macallan scotch went for (I just signed everything to the room and it was direct billed to our main offices).
Still, it must be a pretty nice place - the Dave Matthews Band was staying there for a couple nights while we were there. Dave Matthews and his band were playing at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. I didn't see any of the band (a couple of my colleagues said they saw a couple of the guys one morning), but I did have a nice conversation with a couple of their road crew one afternoon.
And one other thing - the hotel was a ways out from virtually anything. It was about five minutes from the Cherry Creek area, but it was a good 20 to 25 minutes to get downtown. Worse with the traffic in the morning. And Denver with traffic is a real bitch.
Oh! And one final thing. Loews has no airport shuttle. They do have a shuttle for areas up to six miles from their hotel (Downtown, Cherry Creek, Denver Tech Center), but that's it.
I had to take a cab to the airport because I had an 8 a.m. flight back home. It's 24 miles from the hotel to the airport and the tab came to $56 bucks. I had $62 bucks in my pocket and I just handed the cab driver everything I had. So, beware - it costs a LOT of money to get a cab in Denver.
One other aside - I sent my dirty clothes back home via FedEx Ground along with a number of manuals and literature I picked up from the CEDIA show. When they showed up three days later, it smelled like they were in a bar for a week. The air purifier didn't work.
I hope the other Loews hotel are worthy of being called the best "upper upscale" business hotels. The one in Denver was not. It was tired, vastly overpriced and vastly overrated.