DEEPAK OHRI has just opened Lebua No. 3, the world’s tallest gin, vodka and caviar bar. Besides being Bangkok’s answer to upscale gin, there’s also a special-edition Absolut Elyx that has been created for Lebua. It is the first time in the vodka brand’s 140-year history that it has crafted a unique blend for a partner.
Ohri, who has widely been hailed as a visionary, is not stopping to admire the success he has wrought on the 52nd floor of the Tower Club at Lebua. The New Delhi native has already turned his attention elsewhere. He is set to launch a new champagne bar and chef’s table early this year, followed by 11 new bars and restaurants by the end of 2021 at the high-rise Lebua hotel.
He is the mastermind behind the Dome at Lebua dining and bar complex. This has become Bangkok’s top luxury epicurean destination with its breathtaking collection of F&B establishments: Mezzaluna, Sirocco, Breeze, Flute, Alfresco 64, Distil and Sky Bar (best known for being one of the most glamorous settings in The Hangover Part II).
Ohri popularised the notion of open-air rooftop dining and drinking before anyone else in Bangkok, offering exclusive experiences that cannot be matched. There’s no stopping the ambitions of this modern-day Midas who is blessed with an entrepreneurial zeal.
Ohri first held operational and executive roles with companies such as Kempinski and Taj Hotels, before becoming Lebua’s first employee in 2003. He is noted for rebranding the ailing Meritus hotel as the all-suite Lebua at State Tower in 2006. Against the odds, he turned the business around in the midst of a global recession. Occupancy rates are now at 88 per cent. A record 1,200 customers visit the Dome daily.
He sat down with Keyyes to discuss success, his drive, and how he looks at the luxury experience.
How did you transform the Meritus hotel into the first Lebua, building a thriving luxury hotel brand?
The Meritus was selling rooms for US$60 at the time and getting very different kinds of guests, so we rebranded and made lots of changes. At first, our occupancy fell from 60 per cent to eight per cent, but we got back on track within six months. In 2006, we ended up with 55 per cent occupancy, but we achieved an average room rate of US$120.
The logic is to create an experience… We’re making people’s dreams a reality. The glassware we’re using at Lebua No. 3 is the kind you see in movies. When you watch a movie and there’s a scene where the guy’s pouring a nice scotch into a glass, you also have the urge to do that. This is how emotions work. What people see and desire, we’re giving to them in reality.
We are not opening bars; the day we start selling gin, vodka and caviar, we’d be out of business. We are giving people the experience that they always wanted to have.
What prompted you to start the outdoor rooftop dining trend in Bangkok when nobody else believed in it?
Back then, Thailand never had a standing bar. Sky Bar was the first… What convinced me was the view. When I stood there, I considered myself at a vantage point, but I needed a glass of champagne. And that’s how Sky Bar came about. The idea was not to make Thailand’s first standing bar, but to create a place to stand, look at the view and drink champagne.
How do you explain your success?
The only key to my success is that I believe that I have nothing to lose. That fear is not there. And fear is what holds you back. My vision is that I don’t want to be No. 2. Now, we’re opening a second champagne bar, and we are discussing opening Asia’s longest bar. We want to be the first to do horizontal elevators at a vertical destination.
My philosophy is: Work hard. If you slip to No. 2, next year, you can try to be No. 1. If you don’t aim for the top, then you don’t really have a starting point.
Lebua No. 3
State Tower, 1055 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand.
Open every night from 6pm to 1am.
T: (+66) 2624-9555.