San Diego’s Historic LaFayette Hotel & Club Reemerges After 31-Million Dollar Transformation

Venerable Local Hospitality Group CH Projects Honors and Revives Historic Hideaway with a new Design and Robust Culinary and Beverage Programming
Reimagining an Icon: San Diego’s Historic LaFayette Hotel & Club Reemerges After 31-Million Dollar Transformation
Photo: Kimberly Motos

San Diego’s LaFayette Hotel & Club hit an historic milestone as its full transformation was unveiled. Owned and developed by CH Projects, the company behind some of the city’s most known restaurant and bar destinations (Morning Glory, Youngblood, Born & Raised), the new LaFayette Hotel & Club reflects the brand’s commitment to creating properties that reflect the unique cultural fabric of San Diego including their first and only hotel.

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Located in the city’s North Park neighborhood, the LaFayette Hotel & Club is a two and half-acre Colonial-style hotel built in 1946 by young entrepreneur Larry Imig as a haven for young Hollywood hosting Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. Shortly after it opened, the property was purchased by Conrad Hilton and changed ownership several times in the following decades and was maintained with varying degrees of effort and investment. The LaFayette Hotel & Club’s complete overhaul—it’s first proper restoration since it was built—was designed by Brooklyn-based Post Company including eight new food & beverage outlets along with all 139 rooms and the signature pool that remains the focal point of the property. Music producer Swizz Beats has created the hotel’s soundtrack played on a custom-built speaker system designed by Devon Turnbull.

“The LaFayette Hotel & Club is the culmination of every project we’ve undertaken since our inception over 17 years ago, when we dreamed of creating social spaces that honestly reflect San Diego’s underappreciated and misrepresented cultural scene,” says CH Projects founder Arsalun Tafazoli in a statement. He adds, “As stubborn advocates for the city, we are obsessive about creating experiences for the community that both celebrate our weird, wonderful pockets of subculture and provide elements of escapism. A hotel is the pinnacle of hospitality, the most complex canvas on which people can socialize and connect deeply and we hope this new incarnation of The LaFayette Hotel & Club reflects our mission to honor tradition while making something new and surreal to discover.”

The new LaFayette Hotel & Club brings guests on a creative exploration that features an ode to the original “city within a city” hotel concept moving beyond a one-dimensional space. Accessible luxury can be found in each of the hotel’s food & beverage vignettes and the 139 rooms featuring custom designed linens and a thoughtfully curated in-room bar amenity featuring a comprehensive spirit and cocktail set-up by venerable cocktail expert Paul McGee.

Upon arrival, guests encounter a formal entry gilded with rich plastered crown moldings, tumbled vintage checkered marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and lush plantings. A dedicated café kiosk that serves coffee and pastries is in the entry lobby along with a retail space carved out of rich millwork featuring a collection of diverse products curated by Swish Studios. The lobby restrooms are interpretations of a Grand Hotel water closet with decorative tile, deep basin sinks, and aged unlacquered brass fixtures that speak to an Old-World vibe, while shared stalls and sinks nod toward a more inclusive era.

The LaFayette Hotel and Swim Club is home to a range of guest rooms, suites, and townhouses rooted in traditional Victorian, Tudor, and Gothic details. Design elements such as wallpaper ceilings, saturated wall tones, fabric draped canopy beds, and burled bar carts read as functional sculpture or art.

The Suze Suites that surround the outdoor pool follow the same irreverent maximalism of the main hotel rooms but with more playful elements such as layered patterns and bright textiles, gathered bed skirts, ornate lighting, and a mirrored bar cart. The Townhouses on the property are in a Spanish Mission style with whimsical, bright textiles and distinct furniture juxtaposed alongside more classical elements of textured flooring and wrought iron details.

The hotel’s myriad of dining experiences will debut in two phases including:

Phase I (available July 12, 2023)

Beginners Diner acts as an installation of a traditional diner from the 1940s, and details down to the placemats, flatware, and fountain drinks transport guests into this historic era with a diner historian consulted on the details. The restaurant has a chrome storefront and bold neon signage. The concept is a tribute to the Americana hero dishes that helped democratize restaurants mid-century with a nod to traditional Greek and Jewish food influences.

The Lobby Bar is circular in design under the glass atrium flooding the space with light and is anchored by the Atlas statue and surrounded by a hand-painted ceiling by Brazilian-based artist Joāo Incerti. The menu will feature classic throwback cocktails. This bar is constructed with detailed wood surrounded by delicate banquettes with wrought iron lamps.

Quixote is an Oaxacan-inspired concept and Mezcalería designed with monastic qualities that envelop guests with an agnostic sense of worship. The entire space was created from a decommissioned Catholic church in Mexico and reconstructed to showcase dark wood paneling, rough cobblestones that dot the entryway, flickering Santa Maria candles, rich stained-glass windows and baroque pews and banquettes surrounding the pulpit-inspired bar. Heirloom grains and masa with artisanal moles anchor the dining experience alongside creative craft cocktail spotlighting mezcal and Mexican distillates.

The Pool Bar on the property is both composed and excessive with a sun-drenched stone patio cascading down into the checkered pool and connecting garden-like deck surrounded by abundant, overgrown bougainvillea, citrus, and jasmine. Brightly colored and scalloped umbrellas shade striped chaise lounges and rattan clamshell chairs along the pool’s perimeter, all designed to evoke 1980’s luxury via the Amalfi Coast. Aperitivos, spritzes, and refreshing bites are featured on the menu.

The game room featuring a two-lane bowling alley The Gutter is inspired by Henry Frick’s personal bowling alley at the base of the Frick Museum where classic cocktails are served including a custom-made gravity-fed ball return system, elegant pool tables, and shuffleboard.

Phase II (available Q4 2023)

The Le Horse Continental Room is a more luxurious European-style restaurant designed with lavish materials and details such as wild mosaic tiles. The entrance is complete with a conservatory and a central bar and café style banquettes that flank both sides of the space.

Lulu’s Jungle Room & The Mississippi Room are conceived as a golden era jazz and night club housed in the hotel’s former event space. The bar has clashing patterns of leopards, forest canopies, feathers, and fronds, while the Mississippi Room is slightly pared down for guests to focus on the stage that will feature a variety of live music acts with decorative columns and patterned carpet that complement the original clam shell backdrop. A Chef’s Table spotlighting visiting culinary talent from around the world will be available in Phase II.

The spa and wellness areas include Russian, Roman, and Turkish baths that will debut in Fall 2023.

The Lafayette is located at 2223 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104.

Lisa Hay

Lisa Hay

Lisa is a staff reporter for What Now Media Group. She covers new restaurant, retail, and real estate openings across all of our markets. A true foodie, this Air Force veteran has lived all over the world — from Aviano, Italy to Nairobi, Kenya — but her favorite spot is NOLA for its rich history, architecture, culture, and of course, its good eats.
Lisa Hay

Lisa Hay

Lisa is a staff reporter for What Now Media Group. She covers new restaurant, retail, and real estate openings across all of our markets. A true foodie, this Air Force veteran has lived all over the world — from Aviano, Italy to Nairobi, Kenya — but her favorite spot is NOLA for its rich history, architecture, culture, and of course, its good eats.
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