Charles Givens isn't worried. The Oklahoma City developer who specializes in office buildings, condominiums and retirement communities boasts that his Hotel ZaZa, taking shape near McKinney and Maple, will have a 72 percent occupancy rate when it opens in October. This despite a slump in the boutique hotel market, which was off some 16 percent in 2001 as measured by revenue per available room, according to The Wall Street Journal. This stat doesn't faze Givens. "I wouldn't call this one a boutique hotel," he says. "Boutique's not the right word, and hip's not the right word. I'm not sure what it is. Lifestyle hotel, possibly." Givens points out that his hotel has 146 rooms with meeting space, while boutique hotels are typically 50 to 70 rooms with small lounges. And while most boutique hotels tend to be dusky, edgy and snooty (à la Phillipe Starck), Givens describes his hotel as very comfortable and "real sexy and sensual." To help nurture those impressions, Hotel ZaZa will have a restaurant set apart from the main building near the hotel's pool and gardens. He describes the food as an eclectic melding of Asian influences with French and American touches. Givens says he is still looking for a chef to button up that part of the operation. Rates for Hotel ZaZa range from $178 per night all the way to $900 a night for the Monarch Suite. Why has Givens, whose only other hotel is the Waterford Hotel in Oklahoma City, focused his attention on Dallas? "It just felt like Dallas was missing this type of atmosphere," he says. "I just wanted something different that was a little bit younger, cleaner and with a more 'with-it' feeling."
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Jamie Samford, opening executive chef at Lola the Restaurant, has vacated his perch to pursue hours that are more banker-like. Samford has been appointed executive chef at H.E. Butt's Central Market in Dallas, which is set to open at Greenville Avenue and Lovers Lane sometime this summer. "His kids are a little older, and he wanted his evenings off," says Lola owner Van Roberts. Sous chef Chris Peters, who has been sous chef at Lola since it opened and at Barclay's before that, will take charge of the kitchen...Brian Hennington, former owner of the Nutt House Hotel in Granbury, is back in the metroplex kicking restaurant project tires. "I might open something," he says. "[But] I was working so hard out in Granbury, I'm really kind of being lazy in taking time off." After selling the Nutt House to a Bed & Breakfast investment group out of Fredericksburg, Hennington, who founded Deep Ellum Cafe before selling it in 1991, is currently helping out at All Good Café in Deep Ellum.