“It’s intimate. That’s what we want,” Bob Haislip, General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court, is talking about his hotel in Baltimore. “There are three larger hotels all around us here on the Inner Harbor and there’s us. We have fabulous people on staff. I have a very good team. Some people have been here over twenty years”
“One of the things that Sonesta does is to join with the place where we are. We have partnered with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to support a program called OrchKids. It teaches musical instrument lessons to inner city kids. It’s a very successful program We’re proud of that,” says Haislip.
The hotel has 22 suites and 181 standard rooms, most with a view of the harbor. It was built as a private hotel, unaffiliated with any chain and called the Harbor Court Hotel for many years. It became a Sonesta three years ago and Haislip came to manage it. The hotel also has a fitness center, an indoor pool and spa treatments by appointment. It’s next door neighbor, the Harbor Court Condos’ residents, are allowed to join the gym for a fee and take advantage of the spa treatments. In fact, it’s so intentional that there is a covered walkway between the hotel’s gym and the condos.
A further intimate detail of the hotel is that it has a Honey Garden in the courtyard of the hotel. In the honey garden is a hive of 30,000 bees. There is also a sculpture of a beehive there. Until recently there were peacocks who strolled in the Honey Garden. They were taken out when it was discovered that it is illegal in the city of Baltimore to have peacocks in the inner garden of a hotel.
Another thing which is interesting about the hotel is the bar. Years ago the owner left his collection of books in what looks like a library in the bar. However, an annoying aspect of having books in a library in a bar was that the books often disappeared and weren’t brought back.
So, the owner decided that he would fix it. He took his remaining collection he took out of the bar and refilled the shelves with antique books whose only difference was that they were all in obscure foreign languages: Icelandic, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian. Needless to say, the books haven’t disappeared as rapidly, in fact hardly any have been stolen!
The hotel also has a magnificent Presidential Suite, which has been host to countless celebrities including Pavoratti, George Clooney, the crew from the TV show “Veep,” which also filmed a large part of a program in the suite and lots of foreign royals who have come to Baltimore for medical reasons. The suite has a kitchen, a bar, a dining area, a living room and a study and a bedroom and can be enlarged to include another bedroom.
The hotel is clearly a cut above a normal business hotel. I talked to Bob Haislip about his plans for the future. “I want to create a better defined restaurant. We have wonderful food so I’d start with a gastro-pub with people food. Wonderful people food. I don’t want to overwhelm people, not to be pretentious.”