Yes, Sir! by Martin Tschechne | 31st August, 2018 | Offices
Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin and Ibiza: Over the last five years, the number of Sir Hotel locations has increased steadily. Barcelona is the most recent. The stylish chain attracts creatives from around the globe. With their cool restaurants, contemporary design and international flair, each establishment tells its own story.
Come with me,” says our host. “You have to see one of our rooms now.” He jumps up from his chair, above Hamburg’s Nikolaifleet canal, hurries through a dark paneled, yet spacious bar, in which drinks for 300 party guests are being chilled, and has already reached the elevator. We arrive on the third floor and he opens a door. But wait a minute, it looks like this room is occupied already. “Don’t worry, those are my things,” Liran Wizman says, laughing. Had the inventor and entrepreneur behind the young Sir hotel chain not just put a damper on expectations regarding the hotel rooms? Had he not explained the concept according to which the lobby and the lounge act as meeting places and the setting for luxurious dining, equipped with all amenities, while the hotel rooms are, well, more modest in nature? Quite the opposite is true. Wood, marble and fluffy carpets adorn the spacious rooms, as do works by new artists. Wizman expounds on the artwork on the walls: a piece by a young, Hamburg- based artist and another by a yet unknown talent from Amsterdam. There is a sizable, freestanding designer bathtub in the room. Everything else is as understated as it is discreet and comfortable – just as well-traveled guests would expect from a very elegant hotel. Wizman seems all too aware of the powerful effect the room has had. And having convinced another skeptic, he is beaming. That’s his forte: raising expectations and then exceeding them.
Only 42 years old and with his neatly trimmed beard and tousled hair, Wizman cuts a wiry, nimble figure. His style is skillfully casual: jeans and a T-shirt, white sneakers and a slim-fit jacket. So this is what a person who founded and manages companies like Grand City Hotels and Europe Hotels Private Collection looks like. Someone who manages more than 120 hotels across Europe and owns more than 50 worldwide. A person who buys real estate, existing hotels and offices as though he was playing Monopoly. Who either passes them on to other operators or develops them into new hotels himself by giving them an attractive, fresh identity and combining them into groups. He was in Vienna yesterday, today he is attending a function and party in Hamburg, and tomorrow – while the bartenders are still washing the last glasses from tonight’s party – he will be in Barcelona. The Hamburg-based Sir Nikolai and its Japanese-Peruvian restaurant Izakaya opened more than a year ago. It is the fourth in the group of six Sir hotels and was followed by the Sir Joan in Ibiza. Wizman’s most recent establishment, the modern five-star Omm in Barcelona, will soon also be joining the Sir group of hotels. Prices there start at €285 a night, which falls neatly into the group’s medium price range. But what do they have in common, the building on the bustling Passeig de Gràcia and the hotel in Hamburg? The latter, a formerly unremarkable, converted office building, may be only a stone’s throw from the trendy Speicherstadt and HafenCity districts and the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, but it was evidently waiting for just the right prince to come along and waken it. Liran Wizman was that prince. With a smile, Wizman corrects those who try to lump together all his Sir hotels, including the two further locations in Amsterdam and one in Berlin. “We are talking about a process here,” he says. “About an evolution. The brand identity evolves with each new launch.” The aesthetics are influenced by the locations, right down to the local products in the minibars and the works by local authors on the bookshelves. Recently, each of the hotels also started offering nine special Sir Explore tours, which provide an opportunity to experience the local night life with insiders, for example. Wizman started out as a lawyer in his home city of Tel Aviv, but quickly got bored with everyday life as an attorney. He preferred business, especially real estate. He worked as a broker and consultant, then switched sides and joined a company, became a partner – and very successful. Then, one day in 2006, he says, he found a hotel in Amsterdam that was for sale at quite a reasonable price. It was a small establishment for tourists on a budget, €50 per bed per night, and on the market for only €3 million. At that price, there was no need for a consortium of five or six investors to be brought on board.
So Wizman snapped it up. He developed his brand, simply by drawing the right conclusions from something he had witnessed many times. Most hotels are nice, comfortable downtown establishments, but in the morning, the guests lock their rooms and leave to go about their business. So, he wondered, why shouldn’t hotels also be inviting places for local people? If you picture a manager such as Wizman – only 30 years old at the time, and busy opening one hotel after another – it is difficult to imagine that there was any room left for improvement. But Liran Wizman turned it up another notch and brought some of his newly found passions into play: art, fashion, design and cuisines that break the mold. He traveled widely, forged new alliances, exchanged views with architects and designers, talked to chefs specializing in fusion cuisine from Tokyo to Los Angeles, and got into the habit of visiting fashion boutiques and galleries in all the places he went. Wizman sampled, collated and combined his ideas into brands: perfectly operated restaurants like the Izakaya and The Butcher that both have locations in several cities; or hotel groups like the Sir and the slightly less luxurious Max Brown. The Benedict restaurant that is located inside the Max Brown on Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm serves Texan, Korean and Israeli breakfasts around the clock, just in case Wizman is inspecting his hotel and experiences a bout of homesickness. Having said that, he is now based in Amsterdam and married to a Dutch woman. Their three children are eleven, nine and three years old, and see their father more often than the occupational profile of the average international manager normally allows, which is important to him. His employees have the pleasure of his company less often. Wizman has told them to use his office as a conference room, as he is “hardly ever there anyway.” He never went to hotel management school and says you can pick up all you need to know along the way. And that you can develop an eye for design if you take pleasure in it. Wizman’s latest project is X-Bank, a 700-square-meter store selling Dutch art, fashion and products by young Dutch designers. It is located opposite his W Amsterdam hotel. The hotel guests love the place, so the concept could soon also take off in Berlin, Hamburg or Barcelona.