Does new hotel establish new ethic? Or rely on old jokes?

So, the Citizen Hotel will open soon and in case you haven’t heard about it yet it is THE coolest thing to happen in Sacramento, potentially ever. It’s so cool the room number signs are cool. So are the lampshades. Seriously, this hotel will outcool you, skinny-jean wearing Midtowner, and you, suit-wearing Capitol staffer, in like 3.2 seconds after it opens on November 30th. In fact, since its first weekend is already booked solid, it’s probably already out-cooled you.

From what I read and hear, little remains of the old building’s interiors – which is probably good since when I went to my optometrists office there, it was overrun by crickets (good luck) and other crawly things (bad luck).

But there’s something about The Citizen Hotel that bothers me, just a little. Something more insidious than its ubercool (hey, I like ubercool), something with a bit more bite . . . .

The trouble for me – maybe, I haven’t seen it yet – lies in some of the hotel’s nods to local culture and identity.  I mean, I love that the “lobby and the second floor Scandal lounge are decorated in deep red and black, or as Conley puts it, ‘law library meets bordello.'”  That’s awesome, and potentially an apt pairing.

It’s some of the art that has me wondering:

As we’ve reported, each of Citizen’s guest rooms will feature artwork by the late Newton Pratt, a Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist for more than 30 years.

But the Bee’s current editorial cartoonist, Rex Babin, also is getting a Citizen showcase.

He’s been commissioned to draw a six-panel cartoon for a wall in the Scandal bar.

Babin calls his “noncontemporary” work an homage to Pratt. It starts with a naive young legislator arriving in the Capitol, where he encounters “nefarious and powerful” interests. He eventually succumbs to their influence and leaves town in disgrace.

Says Babin, “It’s sort of ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Sacramento.'”

It’s a local artist creating the thematic piece, so I guess I can’t go overboard drawing a connection between the SF-based hotel company that developed the Citizen and the damn-the-Sacramento-man, liberal sensibility it might carry to our hamlet.  Or maybe I can.

Anyway – it bums me out that being trendy means appealing to the most common level of anti-Sacramento commentary. I like Babin’s work. And perhaps this will view more like a cautionary fable than a foregone conclusion of what the folks under the dome can(‘t) accomplish.  Does the Citizen need to be negative to be cool? Can’t it celebrate representative democracy and the legislative process and still retain its “haute” tag?

By the way, I paused before thinking this outloud since the hotel hasn’t opened yet, so I can’t quite know from whence I speak.  However, since the hotel’s website has no problem talking about itself in the present tense (like it’s already open), I don’t mind doing the same. I will, however, make sure to check it out, review it in full (top to bottom, bar to restaurant) and see if I’m being needlessly protective or predictively astute. (NB: how can it have four stars already when it hasn’t opened? Was there a soft-open a la Oceans 13?)

1 Comment so far

  1. wburg on November 24th, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

    Well, J Street used to be known as "Rowboat Row" (because there were ‘oars’ on either side) so the bordello part isn’t that far off the mark.

    And a homage to Newton Pratt, a legendary Sacramento editorial cartoonist, would certainly be a barbed sort of thing–the best editorial cartoonists are the horrendous cynics.

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