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Toronto Club District

Charles Khabouth unveils Bisha, his new boutique hotel

Posted by Rick McGinnis / August 18, 2010

Bisha TorontoNot that it was a surprise, but clubland impresario Charles Khabouth finally took the wraps off his Bisha boutique hotel and condo project last week. The 41-storey tower will go up near King and Peter, on the site that once housed Second City's second home in Toronto, and will feature 100 hotel rooms and 322 condo suites, the latter to range from $300,000 to $1.5 million.

It's a whole new plateau for the man who began his career with a tiger and a police siege in the office of his first club, but who broke ground in what would later be known as the Entertainment District. The famously workaholic Khabouth and his INK Entertainment is behind The Guvernment, Kool Haus, Ultra Supper Club, Spice Route, Tattoo Rock Parlour and more, but for a project the size of Bisha he's teamed up with Lifetime Developments, who include Liberty Market, M5V, Water Park City and the new and old Four Seasons among their portfolio.

Bisha TorontoKhabouth has a long history with food, drink and entertainment in the city. Earlier this week I talked to him about the past, as well as how he intends to make a difference in a city suddenly besotted with boutique hotels and the new downtown.

Why did it take Toronto so long to warm to the boutique hotel concept? London, New York and Montreal were years ahead of us.

If I had the opportunity to do this ten years ago, I would have done it. Unfortunately I didn't have the right partner ten years ago. It's long overdue for the city to embrace it, but unfortunately no one came forward with it. Hotel Le Germain opened a few years ago, but Le Germain, for me, is a great boutique hotel but offers no amenities. It's very well done - beautiful, great service, but they don't have what I like to see in a boutique hotel, which is great F&B (food and beverage,) great gym, great room service.

Getting back to your original question, it's not like the city wasn't ready. Unfortunately nobody came into town, but what's allowed it to be possible now is that you can do a mixed-use building with condos and that makes it more feasible. To put up a 100 or 120 room hotel is very expensive and very difficult to finance if it's not attached to a residential unit, because what are you financing? You're financing a building that you have to rely on the income after opening.

Bisha TorontoKing West is getting to be known as the boutique hotel district - what are you going to do to compete with the hotels that have already opened, and will still be opening by the time you open the doors at Bisha?

There's a couple of things. One is my knowledge of the city and the people around me which will definitely give me an edge. I've been doing the F&B thing for the last 27 years. The people coming here to build these are from out of town, but what will help me is that I have existing clients. On a yearly basis, for the last fifteen years, I book between a thousand and 1,600 rooms in the city, just for my own purpose, my own use, because of the number of concerts we do, the amount of talent we bring to town, the clients we have. And also the fact that I'm partners with a lot of big corporates, whether they're liquor partners, concert partners, we do so much business with these people that we already have an existing need internally.

The other thing is that I think what we're going to offer is luxury with an edge, because right now if you want luxury you have to go to something like the Four Seasons or the Shangri-La when it opens, but they're not edgy. Your average 30-year-old person doesn't want to stay at a property like that. When you think of those properties you think of something much older, very quiet and serene. We want to be able to offer a building that has a little more lifestyle, more edge, more excitement. It's one of the reasons why we're putting a 24-hour cafe in the property - there will constantly be traffic in and out of that property.

Bisha TorontoIt's why, in my opinion, the coolest hair salon in town will have a little outpost in there, there will be a car wash in the basement, a private lounge, two restaurants, a rooftop patio that's almost 7,000 square feet with an infinity pool. It'll be a hub; it'll have a level of energy and excitement that nobody is offering in the city."

Are there any other projects on the go?

We're doing a bistro at Bloor & Avenue Road, on Bloor - we will have the first ever patio on Bloor Street. It's a second floor location with a patio on the main floor and a patio on the second floor, so I will be surrounded by Cartier and Louis Vuitton and so on. It will not be fine dining - it will be casual dining with breakfast, lunch and dinner, a three meal restaurant. We are in for permits already and we will begin construction on Nov. 1 to open in March or April.

What about the rumoured concert space on Queen West?

That hasn't been signed yet but that is in the works.

You have a longer view on the city's nightlife than most people, so where do you think it's headed, now that it appears that the city-sanctioned Entertainment District is winding down?

It's like any city in the world - every few years there's a new area that emerges. Thirty-five years ago when I came to Toronto the biggest neighbourhood was Yorkville. Seven days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner it was packed, and Sunday you couldn't walk down the street. It's no longer that - it's coming back slowly but it'll never be what it was, and the Entertainment District is something that I started 23 years ago.

I was the first venue in the area with Stilife and I was paying four dollars a square foot and parking was free across the street after six o'clock because there was nobody there. I had to fight with the city for them to put some lighting on Duncan, by the entrance to my club. It was pitch dark - they would have maybe a couple of lights on a street that needed eight.

That area kicked in and now it's winding down for the entertainment and it's really booming for the residential and everything else. The towers are going up fast and furious because the real estate became too expensive to have a 2-3 story building with a nightclub in the basement and 20 offices on top. And it is very central - it's got Queen Street and it's walking distance to the business district. You're a five minute walk from the TD Centre, you're walking distance from the theatre district, the TIFF building is launching in September. You've got the Skydome, the ACC is in walking distance, really. Convention centre - I believe King and Peter will become the centre of the real downtown core.

Images courtesy of Bisha



GO 65 / August 18, 2010 at 11:29 am
Charles Khabouth = Charles Le Douche.
Marc replying to a comment from GO 65 / August 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm
^^ ha ha
bob / August 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm
So true. This is just going to up the levels of trashytings on our streets. Like those Jersey Shore folk.

He's ruining King W, but PLEASE do not let him get to Queen W, that place has been through enough.
annakarenina / August 18, 2010 at 02:15 pm
king west was completely remade by charles khabouth, i dont know if u even remember what king was 10 years ago.. a veritable wasteland. this project looks amazing btw, i cant wait for this to be built. finally a "true" design hotel in the city.
summerof69 / August 18, 2010 at 03:34 pm
I wish him the best of luck! This is a HUGE project and all you naysayers should be HAPPY that someone is taking such a risk in Toronto. We're slowly becoming the city that fun forgot and I pray that the next Mayor doesn't have an Adam Vaughan style agenda to stifle nightlife/entertainment in this city.

Toronto - if you EVER want to be WORLD CLASS you have to stop TALKING(read "complaining") and start DOING things to improve this place!
John / August 18, 2010 at 03:42 pm
Ugh. King WOULD be better off without all this. Better a wasteland with an unwritten future and loads of potential than an established craphole.

Oh god, don't let him loose on Queen. Hopefully there's still enough scrappy, heterogeneous urbanity there (and yuppie-unfriendly social services) to fend him off. I guess the Queen and Peter nexus would be most logical anyway, though it's a bit young for his crowd.

Maybe as he gets older he'll gravitate to the Yorkville/Bloor area, which would be most appropriate. There's room in the big city for all types... I just hate to see Yorkville's posh exclusivity creeping out over the whole city.
John replying to a comment from summerof69 / August 18, 2010 at 03:46 pm
A city of Khabouth-cloned "boutique" entertainment zones does not sound "fun." It sounds insufferable.
Chris / August 18, 2010 at 04:26 pm
Actually, Charles already owns places on Queen West: Tattoo Rock Bar and Ultra Supper Club. And this is *exactly* what is needed in the West end. You'd rather have a Westin or Holiday Inn perhaps?

Adding something with a bit of forethought and style is welcome everywhere.

Slap yourself across the face for being an idiot.
sj / August 18, 2010 at 04:38 pm
that strip needs more life and class than hotdog eating 905ers throwing trash on the street....bring it on.
John / August 18, 2010 at 04:43 pm
Oh yeah, Tattoo Rock Parlour. I forgot. It sucks! And thanks for calling me an idiot simply because I have a different taste in nightlife and a different vision for the future of the city! Cheers!
Matt / August 18, 2010 at 06:15 pm
@John: Your comment that you would "hate to see Yorkville's posh exclusivity creeping out over the whole city" is completely irrelevant to what Khabouth is trying to accomplish with his new boutique hotel. Khabouth clearly states that he wants to be "able to offer a building that has a little more lifestyle, more edge, more excitement," compared to buildings like the Four Seasons or the Shangri-La.

From the looks of it, you clearly didn't pay close attention to the interview. I agree with Chris-you're an idiot and you need to give your head a shake...
JR replying to a comment from Matt / August 18, 2010 at 08:01 pm
How exactly does a building have a "lifestyle"? This is all very confusing...

Overall, it looks pretty tacky. But luckily for him, tacky people also have money that they like to waste.
John / August 18, 2010 at 08:26 pm
Would you call me an idiot if we were having this discussion in person? Probably not. Learn some respect and then maybe we can have a discussion. As it stands, I see little distinction between Yorkville hotels and bars and Khabouth's, except that Khabouth has a little bit of clubland cred and si projects attract a slightly rowdier crowd.
Matt / August 18, 2010 at 08:58 pm
@JR: A condo building having its own lifestyle is not con fusing at all. What Khabouth means is that his luxury boutique building, unlike other luxury buildings, will have certain amenities that cater to the 30-something year old yuppie who live a fast-paced, upbeat, exciting "lifestyle." A building with a car wash in the basement, a private lounge, two restaurants, and a giant rooftop patio with an infinity pool are amenities that cater to the yuppie lifestyle, therefore allowing the building to promote its own lifestyle.

@John: Please explain/elaborate how you see little distinction between Yorkville hotels/bars and Khabouth's hotel?
John / August 18, 2010 at 09:22 pm
Oh for God's sake, I don't care about this stupid discussion anymore. But if you're so interested why I don't see much difference between Khabouth and Yorkville, read back your own post: "A building with a car wash in the basement, a private lounge, two restaurants, and a giant rooftop patio with an infinity pool are amenities that cater to the yuppie lifestyle, therefore allowing the building to promote its own lifestyle."

Your answer, sir.
Matt / August 19, 2010 at 12:16 am
@John: You seem to forget that there are dozens of condos throughout downtown Toronto that have private patios, rooftop lounges, and restaurants at ground level. However, just because these condos provide these amenities and features doesn't make them comparable to Yorkville. Khabouth's intent isn't to offer valet parking, concierge, or 24 hour in-room catering, like some luxurious Yorkville condos. Instead, he is simply trying to add edgy features like a 24-hour diner and a rooftop infinity pool;features that yuppies will appreciate. Thanks for coming out to play John...I rest my case.
Metropolitan Hotel Toronto / August 19, 2010 at 11:24 am
Some hotels are ideally located in the middle of Toronto's entertainment and tourist district, making it easy to walk or take the Toronto subway system to travel around quickly.
JR replying to a comment from Matt / August 19, 2010 at 07:17 pm
Good try, but you still haven't realized your mistake. The building itself does not have "its own lifestyle (unless you count standing in one place, and slowly deteriorating). If the building did all the things you ascribe to it, it would be a very haunted house. What you were going for is that the building is marketed to a particular lifestyle segment. Thanks for coming out though.

Oh, and thanks for defining the term "lifestyle". It really is a toughie. I feel much more enlightened now.
Rob / September 12, 2010 at 10:32 pm
Peter and King... the new downtown core.....bahahahahahahhaahahaah
Lillian / November 4, 2010 at 09:59 am
This may be a unanswerable question, but does anyone know how to contact Charles Khabouth directly?
Warren / November 16, 2010 at 12:27 am
@ $800 per SQ feet you might loose $50,000 to $100,000 in re sell value. Rather go to TIFF building.

Look if the condo market keeps going up then yes its a good deal. But that is not the case. The market will cool off and I can ensure you no investors in this building will walk away with a profit. Charles will but thats about it.

But if you buying to live there it is a great new building and worth the money. just not a good investment.
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