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Monday, May 29, 2023

Life in the Fast Lane Treating Hotelier, Restaurateur Well

Downtown hotelier and restaurateur Edward Kaen is on a roll with Italian automobile designer Pininfarina, famous for the Ferrari.

The Keating, Kaen’s 35-room hotel, and his Minus 1 Lounge, which is beneath the hotel, opened two years ago with ultra-chic d & #233;cor and furnishings designed by Pininfari & #173;na. The Keating was the first lodging property in the world to bear Pininfarina’s stamp.

Now, its design credentials include The Merk, a 6,000-square-foot restaurant and bar that Kaen opened Jan. 10 in the historic Mercantile Building in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter on Fifth Avenue. The hotel is housed in the adjacent Keating Building, which is also a historic property. Kaen’s family owns the Keating Building and the neighboring Mercantile Building.

With seating for 160, the restaurant sports brick walls, a bar with a top made of inlaid carnelian stone, wooden flooring and a mezzanine with a glass catwalk leading to private areas for meetings and dining. Merk’s d & #233;cor uses the same Ferrari red palette as The Keating.

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Adjoining the Merk is Krust, a small pizzeria. Kaen said the restaurant and bar were self-financed at a cost of about $1 million.

Occupancy Up

He wouldn’t disclose additional financial details, but said that occupancy at The Keating was up 30 percent in 2008 from its first year of operation in 2007. Rooms fetch an average of $250 to $275 nightly, while suites go for $500. Altogether, there are 100 employees working at the hotel, lounge, restaurant and pizzeria.

A staircase adjacent to the Merk’s bar leads down to the subterranean Minus 1. The restaurant will provide room service to the hotel’s guests, and was on the drawing board when the hotel opened. A rooftop patio pool is also planned.

Merk’s menu is still being tested, but the goal is to attract locals, he said.

It’s no secret that downtown’s restaurateurs depend largely on conventioneers, and operators have long complained that local residents stay away.

“People who live here will bring their friends and family from out of town to dine in the Gaslamp Quarter, but they don’t come by themselves,” Kaen said.

Parking Issues

Parking, or the lack thereof, has been blamed. However, publicist Heidi Hageman, who lives and works downtown, said urban dwellers also tend to shy away from a lot of Gaslamp Quarter eateries , as of last summer there were 100 , because they consider them too pricey.

Kaen said that The Merk will specialize in “Italian food with a California twist” and that most entrees would range from $14 to $20, which he hopes will attract locals looking for an affordable place to dine. Krust will sell pizza by the pie or slice and offer a salad bar.

“Despite the economy, people still want to go out and eat and mingle with other people,” Kaen said. “So I hope they’ll try something new and keep coming back.”


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