Embassy Hotel & Suites turns heads at Ottawa relaunch party

Downtown Ottawa hotel spends $7 million on room renovations, improving food and beverage services

I can't tell you how many times I've scurried past the Embassy Hotel & Suites without taking much notice of it. Not anymore. Not after attending its fabulous winter launch party Friday night to show of its latest renovations.

The invite-only reception, held at the downtown Ottawa hotel, attracted a diverse crowd, served great food and drinks, and created an electric party atmosphere through music, lighting and live installations. The only thing missing was an epic pillow fight.

Guests spotted at the party ranged from Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, to Redblacks defensive back Antoine Pruneau, to media personalities and fashion and social media influencers.

The reception took place over two floors, allowing for people to also mingle upstairs in one of the suites. 

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Models from Angie's AMTI added a glamorous touch to the evening as they stationed themselves outside the elevators at the winter launch party hosted by Embassy Hotel & Suites on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Montreal native Antoine Pruneau, who's headed into his sixth season of playing with the Ottawa Redblacks, joined by Laurence Lavoie at a winter launch party hosted by Embassy Hotel & Suites on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

The Embassy Hotel is located at 25 Cartier St., at the corner of Cartier and Cooper streets in the city’s central Golden Triangle neighbourhood. The 14-storey building is a stone’s throw away from City Hall, the National Arts Centre and the Rideau Canal.

In the days leading up to the Canada 150 celebrations held in 2017, the independent hotel opted for a major refurbishment. Last summer, it completed improvements to its food and beverage services, spending $500,000 on its commercial kitchen and its restaurant, Cooper’s Gastropub.

The Embassy, which invested a total of $7 million on renovations, decided to bring attention to its new and improved look by throwing a party. It chose January — a month that can always use some jazzing up.

“What we’re looking to do is open people’s eyes to what Embassy is today,” hotel general manager Colin Morrison told OBJ.social. “A lot of people have walked by the building and not even noticed that we’re here. We are a relatively nondescript building on the outside. We’re a lot of fun on the inside.”

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From left, Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, with Embassy Hotel & Suites general manager Colin Morrison, who's also chair of the OGHA board. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Katie Hession and Whitney Enns, co-community leaders of Mealshare, which is a non-profit organization that donates meals to youth in need by connecting local restaurants with local charities. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Patrice James, executive director of the Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa Inc. (IFCO), with Jasna Jennings, executive director of the ByWard Market BIA, and Heru Lutalo, CEO and founder of Jean François Complot, at Embassy Hotel & Suite's Winter Launch Party. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Akash Sinha, president of Dharma Developments, with his wife, Katy Sinha, vice president of operations and marketing, at Embassy Hotel & Suite's Winter Launch Party, held Friday, January 25, 2019, at 25 Cartier St. in downtown Ottawa.

James Jefferson and Daniel Mackinnon, owners of boutique PR agency Blackbook Lifestyle, worked their party magic that night. The pair has coordinated many unforgettable functions over the years, such as the star-studded Genie Awards Official After-Party at Arc The Hotel, back when Morrison was manager. He joined Embassy Hotel & Suites in July 2014, bringing with him some of his staff, including executive chef Jason Duffy, a past finalist in Ottawa's Gold Medal Plates culinary competition.

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From left, public relations specialists Daniel Mackinnon and James Jefferson, owners of Blackbook Lifestyle, at the winter party launch held at Embassy Hotel and Suites on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, media personality Lianne Laing with Mark Tomkins, senior producer and editor at CTV, and his wife, Andrea Tomkins, editor of Kitchissippi Times community newspaper, at the winter party launch held at Embassy Hotel & Suites on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Embassy Hotel & Suites's winter launch party featured live installations, such as models from Angie's AMTI lounging on this comfy-looking hotel bed. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Embassy Hotel has been around since the 1960s. It was originally a converted apartment building and, for the longest time, an extended-stay hotel. Said Morrison: “Not much happened with it. It existed and not much more than that.”

That is, until the hotel recognized its potential, with its very spacious rooms and its quiet yet central location, continued Morrison, who’s also board chair of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association. “It was a bit of a diamond in the rough.

“The owners decided that they wanted to dress it up a little bit, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said of the new bathrooms, kitchens, wall and floor coverings and furniture. The rooms — of which 120 of the 140 are suites — were gutted back to concrete and rebuilt. “It’s hard to say if there’s anything that hasn’t been touched.”

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From left, Angie Sakla-Seymour, owner of Angie's AMTI (Angie's Models and Talent Inc.) with Justine Chrétien, Mia Bracanovich and her mother, Ottawa dentist Tanya Bracanovich, at the winter party launch held at Embassy Hotel & Suites on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Stephanie Egan, former radio host-turned-communicatios specialist for CHEO Foundation, with Sandra Plagakis, morning show co-host on Ottawa's KISS 105.3 FM, at the winter party launch held at Embassy Hotel & Suites on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Morrison said the hotel is less focused now on the long-term-stay market. It welcomes all guests, particularly those wanting to drop their luggage down in a room with a small kitchen to do a little cooking, store restaurant meal leftovers or keep their drinks cold.

Since the renovations, the hotel has upped its room prices to $200-plus per night (not exclusively). Business “is very strong,” said Morrison, adding that their occupancy rates are in line with other the hotels in the downtown core. “We’re enjoying very healthy revenues.

“We did something that is somewhat unusual in the hotel industry: We completely changed our market. The rooms are, in my opinion, on par with anything the city offers, including The Westin and the Château (Laurier).”

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From left, Ottawa Hotel & Suites executive chef Jason Duffy with its general manager, Colin Morrison, at the winter party launch hosted by the hotel on Friday, January 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

caroline@obj.ca