Hotel Revival General Manager Donte Johnson. -Photography by Matt Roth
Before coronavirus hit, the two-year-old Hotel Revival in Mt. Vernon was just starting to carve out its place as a socially progressive, community-oriented hotel.
“We’ve always been an impact-focused hotel,” says general manager Donte Johnson, “but we were really starting to lean into our identity in 2020.”
The beginning of the year saw the boutique hotel’s launch of events to promote sobriety in Dry January and celebrate Black History Month in February. But come March, just as Johnson’s team was beginning to plan panel discussions for the trans community and the Baltimore Uprising’s fifth anniversary, their community outreach would take on a whole new meaning.
“Everything changed,” he says. “We thought to ourselves, how do we repurpose every inch of this building to do some good?”
No longer able to invite guests inside in the wake of COVID-19, the hotel quickly pivoted to partnering with local groups to distribute meals to laid-off hospitality workers.
“That was incredibly emotional,” Johnson recalls. “A lot of these folks were people I sat across the bar from every week, and the next time I saw them I was handing them a bag of groceries.”
They also sent produce to under-served communities, hosted free virtual yoga sessions, and even offered free rooms to essential workers.
“I was hearing stories of police officers sleeping in their cars between shifts,” Johnson says. “That just wasn’t something that sat well. The most natural thing for us is to offer accommodations, it’s what we do.”
Even so, the hotel’s actions in the wake of the pandemic have cemented its place as much more than 14 floors of chic rooms and rooftop lounge areas.
“I have a tough time acting as though we’ve reinvented the wheel here,” Johnson says. “All we’ve done is shown some care. Smiles are currency nowadays.”