- Hotel Byblos in Saint-Tropez, France, has for decades welcomed almost every A-lister imaginable.
- Its nightclub, Les Caves du Roy, is among the most prestigious discotheques in France.
- Business Insider spoke with the Byblos’ general manager, Christophe Chauvin, about how the hotel deals with VIPs.
- He told us about the time a very “paranoid” Lady Gaga arrived behind a handbag.
- He also shared some of the wildest requests he’s received from guests.
For Christophe Chauvin, the general manager of the Hotel Byblos in Saint-Tropez, France, no request is too small or too great for his esteemed guests.
Over the years, the doors of the Byblos, on the French Riviera, have welcomed the likes of George Clooney, Bill Gates, Beyoncé, Prince Charles – and actually, pretty much any other A-lister you can think of.
Everyone at Chauvin’s hotel is a VIP, though. “Everybody’s important; if you’re not a celebrity, you’re a wealthy guy or a businessperson,” he told Business Insider.
“Our other guests behave exactly like our celebrities: They want privacy, and they want to be left alone.”
That’s the draw of the Byblos, where rates for the most basic room appear to start at about €365 ($US415) a night.
Over the years, the Byblos’ celebrity guests have defined its culture. And it happened organically.
“It all started in 1971 when Mick Jagger got married at the Byblos,” Chauvin said. “It completely revealed the Byblos to the celebrity clientele.”
Though Jagger’s marriage did not last – Bianca Jagger later said, “My marriage ended on my wedding day” – the Byblos’ success with celebrity clientele did.
The floodgates were open.
‘The scariest celebrity we had was Lady Gaga’
“It must be hard,” I told Chauvin, “keeping all of these A-listers away from paparazzi and selfie-wielding fans.”
“Actually, it’s not difficult, because we have the know-how,” he replied.
Apparently, there is more CCTV in the hotel than in the entire city of Saint-Tropez. There’s also only one way in and one way out, carefully controlled by the hotel, he said.
However, not all celebrities are completely trusting.
“The scariest celebrity we had was Lady Gaga,” Chauvin said. “She was completely paranoid.”
Though Lady Gaga is now an Oscar-nominated actress for her starring role in “A Star Is Born,” it’s easy to forget that 10 years ago few people even knew what she looked like, as she was famous for wearing elaborate outfits that often disguised her face.
“She arrived at the hotel via the basement,” Chauvin said, “walked through the lobby, into the elevator, and up to her room – all with her handbag over her face. The receptionist couldn’t even see who it was!
“You couldn’t even open the curtains of her room, she was so stressed out,” Chauvin added.
“Eventually, when she realised that nobody cared and there were [CCTV] cameras everywhere, she started to be confident and was even smiling at the end of her stay.”
‘Impossible is not in my vocabulary’
Rich people know what they want, and often they’re not prepared to take no for an answer.
With that in mind, I asked Chauvin about the wildest requests he’d received from guests.
“The most difficult request I had was from a regular guest, and it’s a family that I love, but she’s a big shopping addict,” he said.
He said that when Louis Vuitton first opened a shop in Saint-Tropez, it released a limited-edition bag to commemorate the occasion – an item his client insisted on attaining.
However, the bag was not due to be released until after the guests left town, and Chauvin said he was told it was impossible to receive one ahead of time.
“I called my client and said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s impossible,” he said. “‘Impossible is not in my vocabulary,’ she said. ‘You find it.’ And she hung up the phone.”
After much deliberation, Chauvin said, he managed to persuade the designers to send his guests a bag ahead of time, provided that they sign a nondisclosure agreement and that the bag would be sealed and put in their car before departure.
“I was so proud of myself,” Chauvin said. “I called my client and said, ‘I got you the bag!’ She said, ‘Great! I want three!'”
Chauvin recalled the time another friend of the hotel wanted his daughter to get married in Ramatuelle, a charming village next to Saint-Tropez.
But there was a problem: Because the guest did not live in Ramatuelle, the priest was refusing to allow the daughter to be married there.
“I said, ‘OK, but what do you want me to do?'” Chauvin recalled telling the guest. “He said, ‘I don’t know. Find me the solution! I have no solution – that’s why I’m calling you.'”
Rather than shy away from the request, Chauvin posed as his client’s cousin and went to see the priest, he said.
“I had to sign letters saying that my cousin Delphine wanted to get married there and I lived here at this address. I used the address from a friend of mine who actually lived in Ramatuelle,” Chauvin said. “And after that, he said, ‘Fine, they can get married in the church.'”
But things didn’t quite go to plan.
“They split up two months before the wedding,” Chauvin said. “I went crazy.”
€2 million worth of Champagne in one night
Synonymous with the Byblos is the hotel’s iconic nightclub, Les Caves du Roy.
Les Caves du Roy has more stories to tell than a library, but they don’t come cheap. While entrance to the club is free, the drinks inside will set you back a minimum of €28, or about €300 if you feel like splashing out on the cheapest Champagne – that is, if you’re beautiful, rich, or famous enough to make it past the bouncers.
We’ve had guests buying Champagne for the whole club full of 1,000 people.
In Les Caves, Champagne flows like a river – Chauvin estimated the nightclub went through about 10,000 bottles a year.
“We’re actually the biggest Dom Perignon consumer in the world,” he said, adding that it gets 1.5-litre magnum bottles, 3-litre jeroboams, and 6-litre methuselahs.
Chauvin said that for years, Louis Roederer “couldn’t supply us with enough bottles of Cristal Champagne.”
During a Champagne shortage about 10 years ago, he said, the hotel employed people to travel around Europe and buy any bottle of Cristal they could get their hands on.
“We had people driving to Switzerland just to buy six bottles, Italy to buy two methuselahs,” he said.
I asked why his clientele couldn’t simply drink other Champagne. “They were very exceptional products at the time,” he replied.
At the time, Chauvin said, his employees were finding and buying methuselahs of Cristal from private sellers for €22,000 and selling it to partygoers at Les Caves for €50,000.
Now? They cost €8,000.
On that note, Chauvin added that “nightlife is unpredictable.”
On any night, all it will take is a few big fish competing for the title of biggest spender, and sales will go through the roof, he said.
“They will challenge each other,” Chauvin said. “‘You get one jeroboam? I get two. You get two? I get four.’ It goes on like this.
“In 2009, we had our biggest party ever at the club, with three of our wealthiest guests. We sold almost €2 million worth of Champagne in one night. That was crazy.”
Chauvin added that these super-rich clients wouldn’t just keep their booze to themselves. “We’ve had guests buying Champagne for the whole club full of 1,000 people,” he said.
“People like to be in Saint-Tropez for that also you can be Mr. Nobody, just having fun with friends, and you end up with a bottle of Cristal, drinking with your friends for free,” he added.
‘People in Saint-Tropez know how to behave’
Byblos has certainly proved its ability to show guests an elaborate good time while keeping things discreet.
But the limits of its security prowess may be tested in April when the hotel opens its first private beach in Ramatuelle, featuring a restaurant that can host up to 110 guests, a bar and lounge area that can accommodate 30, and a space for up to 80 sun-loungers.
Chauvin said he wasn’t concerned about privacy. “People in Saint-Tropez know how to behave,” he said.
“The beach, of course, we’re going to be very attentive, but we’re not worried about the challenges,” he added.
“We’ll handle it.”
And the look he gave me assured me that they would.
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