Hotel News Now sat down with Eaton Workshop President and Founder Katherine Lo at the Independent Lodging Congress in Brooklyn to discuss her new brand, which aims to meld hospitality with social activism.
NEW YORK—Tasked with rejiggering Great Eagle Holdings’ Eaton Hotels badge, Katherine Lo has spent the past four years creating a brand that combines a boutique hotel design sensibility with a socially progressive attitude that, among other goals, celebrates the work of artists and activists.
Having debuted her brand in late September in Washington, D.C., Lo described Eaton Workshop as a “Trojan horse,” where hotels provide a platform for social change in addition to co-working space – co-working membership tiers in Washington range from $400 a month for 24/7 access to common spaces and invitations to special programming, to $4,500 a month for an on-site six-person office and other membership benefits.
Lo is the daughter of Great Eagle Holdings chairman Lo Ka Shui, who also heads luxury brand Langham Hotels. Lo, who is slated to open an Eaton Workshop in Hong Kong in November, spoke with Hotel News Now at the Independent Lodging Congress in Brooklyn.
Q: How many rooms will your new hotels have, and what were those properties before?
Lo: “We have 209 rooms in Washington, and 465 rooms in Hong Kong. That was an existing operating hotel, and we are renovating half of the rooms into the new brand. The Washington hotel used to be a Four Points by Sheraton, and we renovated it.”
Q: What’s been the most surprising aspect of the new hotel in D.C.?
Lo: “When you work on something for four years, you’re just working with architects and renderings, and you’re debating so many decisions, so to see it populated with actual, live customers was very exciting.”
Q: Was there any specific event in your life that spurred you to take such an activist approach to the new hotel brand?
Lo: “No, it was always meant to be. My father, who started Langham, asked me to create a new brand for him. So I took the things I believe in and what I thought the industry could use, and redid a new brand from scratch based on that. So we’re pro-environment, pro-community and pro-inclusivity.”
Q: Eaton Workshop has been tagged by some as the “Anti-Trump Hotel.” What are your thoughts on that?
Lo: “Well, we didn’t set out to call it that, but because we’re in favor of community and environment, they call us that naturally. So I’m proud of it.”
Q: With Langham being so resolutely luxury, has your affiliation with that brand worked against your efforts to present Eaton Workshop with a more populist approach?
Lo: “No. I haven’t found there to be much association [with Langham] from people not in the hotel world.”
Q: With Eaton Workshop celebrating the work of artists and activists, do you feel that Eaton Workshop is obligated to keep its room rates below a certain level in order to adhere to that philosophy?
Lo: “We are operating at the level of room rates of a boutique hotel, so we see it as the room revenue helps to run a lot of the public programming that we do. We also have artist residency programs, where we do provide rooms for free or at select rates.”
Q: What are the typical room rates?
Lo: “It’s in the low $200s in D.C.”
Q: What do you look to accomplish with the on-site radio station?
Lo: “We’re looking to do half talk and half music, so a lot of interviews. We’ve had a lot of artist talks already as well as talks with activists, so it’s been mostly interview-based. Then we have live music and DJ sets.”
Q: How many Workshop co-working members do you plan to have in Washington?
Lo: “The capacity for in-house co-working is 370.”
Q: How do you present Eaton Workshop to people who want to turn their brains off when they travel?
Lo: “That’s achievable for anyone. If they want to enjoy a beautiful room, delicious food and beverages, or relax with yoga or acupuncture, they can do that. They don’t have to read the books or come to the talks.”
Q: Where else are you looking to take the brand?
Lo: “San Francisco’s mid-Market district, and Seattle. That’s it for now.”