BY RICK WEINBERG, CALIFORNIA BUSINESS JOURNAL
When Dennis LeVett approached his business partner, iconic Hollywood actress Doris Day, about purchasing a hotel in the quaint and picturesque Northern California seaside town of Carmel By The Sea, she was adamant about one thing: making it a pet-friendly hotel.
Thirty years later, the peaceful, Mediterranean-styled Cypress Inn is regarded as perhaps the best and most prominent pet-friendly hotel in America.
The fact that it’s situated in the mesmerizing charm of Carmel makes it that much more special — thanks to Ms. Day.
The legendary Hollywood star won the Oscar for her signature song “Que Sera, Sera” in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in 1956 and a Golden Globe for the film, “Pillow Talk.” She was voted the top box office female star for four consecutive years during the early ’60s and was among the Top 10 for 10 consecutive years. She was the headline actress opposite such leading men as Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, James Cagney, James Stewart and Kirk Douglas. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush in 2004 and was awarded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2008.
Since leaving her fabled film, television, music and dance career, Ms. Day has devoted herself to the welfare of animals. For half of her life, she has worked tirelessly rescuing, healing and placing thousands of abused or neglected animals in new homes. She started her own organization, the Doris Day Pet Foundation, now known as the Doris Day Animal Foundation. She also established the Doris Day Animal League, which is a lobbying group on behalf of animal rights and is now a part of the Humane Society of the United States. The Foundation has grown into one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the world – and it continues to operate under her guidance, even at the age of 95.
Ms. Day’s love for animals – and especially dogs – is felt everywhere you walk at the delightful and immaculately historic Cypress Inn, which was built in 1929 and was first used as an art gallery and atelier. Today, beautiful and obedient dogs are everywhere you turn at this pet-obsessed hotel, including the dining area.
At this moment, two well-behaved Shih Tzus, dressed alike in blue tulle skirts and hair bows, are sitting up in a baby carriage looking at other dogs and their owners pass by. Five feet away is a beautiful well-mannered black Lab stretched out on the floor, satisfied after consuming her Cypress Inn pet menu choice of chicken.
No matter where you are at the hotel – by the fireplace in the living room, Terry’s Lounge, walking through the hallways, or on the outside dining patio, adorable, loving dogs are everywhere with their doting owners – the kind of dog owners who consider their dogs as a family member and take them everywhere.
Even the Cypress Inn staff treat dogs as honored guests. Rooms even come equipped with pet bowls and plush dog beds.
The Moroccan-inspired and modern décor hotel rooms also come complete with a complimentary crystal decanter of cream sherry (one of Ms. Day’s favorite drinks) atop the wet bar.
The hotel features an endless array of photos and posters of Ms. Day and her films. The television in the dining area regularly plays her films.
The hotel’s signature restaurant, Terry’s Lounge, is named after Ms. Day’s son, Terry Melcher, who was a musician and record producer. He was instrumental in shaping the California sound and American West Coast rock music, particularly during the counterculture era.
By the time Happy Hour rolls around on any given day, the popular lounge is hopping with local people who come by to drink, hangout and eat. The Lounge has a lovely dining room — reservations are a must because of its popularity with locals — that has an eclectic menu of delicious Country-French style seafood and steaks.
The quality, preparation and presentation of the food is impeccable – from its Wild Salmon fresh from Monterrey Bay and Roky Chicken to the Sole Petrale from San Francisco Bay and the close-to-unparalleled Filet Mignon.
The Cypress Inn epitomizes everything that is special about Carmel, easily one of the America’s greatest and most charming towns.
It was established as a laid-back, mystical Bohemian community home to intellectuals, artists and authors like Jack London and Sinclair Lewis and poet Robinson Jeffers.
The enchanting one-square-mile village on California’s windswept Central Coast – it’s only 120 miles south of San Francisco — has no streetlights or sidewalks (except in the downtown commercial district).
Fast-food restaurants, neon signs and parking meters are prohibited.
Carmel’s captivating downtown – with its ecologically harmonious backdrop, gorgeous flower gardens, hidden passageways and secret courtyards – features hundreds of art galleries, wine tasting rooms, unique specialty stores, small art studios, cafes, bakeries, restaurants and clothing boutiques.
The sidewalk-less side streets are highlighted by fairytale houses that look like something out of Hansel and Gretel. In fact, one is named the “Hansel House” and another is named the “Gretel House.” The homes do not have street numbers – only names.
“This town is like a fantasy, like you’re stepping back in time to a period in America when everything was just simple and perfect,” says one Cypress Inn guest who makes a semi-annual trek to the hotel with his two golden retrievers. “Whenever I’m away from it, I dream about it and can’t wait to come back. It’s the most special hotel and city I’ve ever visited.”
Guests are treated overwhelmingly superbly by the Cypress Inn staff – from the front desk and concierge to restaurant host and the servers at The Lounge. They’re all so personable and helpful.
Their wonderful and pleasant attitude is an extension of General Manager Peter Radler, who has had a remarkable career in hospitality worldwide. He once owned his own restaurant, Opus One, in Munich, Germany and was the assistant general manager at Hotel Schloessli in Biel, Switzerland before coming to California, where he was an executive at some renowned restaurants and hotels, including the luxurious Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica and the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“My No. 1 priority is the great attitude of our team,” Radler says. “That’s what I drive. My philosophy is if you have to work, you might as well have fun doing it. We have a lot of fun here and we just love the environment of the people and their pets.”
Lincoln St. and 7th Ave.
Carmel By The Sea, Calif. 93921