But the only thing strait-laced about the Ivy Hotel is the leather-covered, corseted columns in the lobby.
The 159-room, $90-million property could pass as Playboy Mansion South, from the skin-baring cocktail waitresses to the $3,000-a-night specialty suite with king-size bunk beds, a group shower and, ahem, a fireman's pole.
"We wanted something a little voyeuristic, a little seductive," said Michael Kelly, the Ivy's co-owner who has made his fortune buying and selling depressed assets. "It's an adult playground, but it's not cheap."
It used to be that only managers of by-the-hour motels were happy to have their properties mistaken for bordellos. But with soccer moms taking erotic dancing classes at the local community college and Carl's Jr. using Paris Hilton (read: sex) to sell hamburgers, some hotels aren't afraid to offer guests more than X-rated pay-per-view movies.
Julie Albright, who teaches classes on human sexuality and social psychology at USC, says easy access to sexual messages and images has shifted the bounds of what's considered socially acceptable.
"It's the pornification of mainstream society," she said. "There's more overt sexuality in our media, on television. More people have cable TV. More people are on the Internet."
Restaurants are also following suit. In West Hollywood, the adults-only Hadaka Sushi and its "sushi gone naughty" concept serves up ahi tuna on a naked model strategically draped with banana leaves. The experience costs $2,100 — and that doesn't include the food. Those on a tighter budget can order more traditional fare from a menu that reads like a smutty novel.
"I think people should break out of their shell a little bit and not be afraid to explore new and different things," owner and chef Edward Brik said. "If you're not comfortable coming in and ordering a threesome roll, you can go to some other boring sushi place and order a spicy tuna roll."
From a purely business perspective, though, the Ivy and restaurants such as Hadaka Sushi are simply differentiating themselves, experts say.
Tom Reichert, coauthor of "Sex and the Consumer Culture" and an advertising professor at the University of Georgia in Athens, calls it "sex-based segmentation."
"It's not targeted to everybody but I think there's at least enough people to keep them in business."
The Ivy is likely to raise a few eyebrows in wholesome San Diego, which bills itself as "America's Finest City."
Co-owner Kelly said that was exactly the idea: "This town needed a little style. I left San Diego every weekend and took off to Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami or St. Tropez . People want, and are willing to pay for, quality and service."
Los Angeles entrepreneur Brad Beckerman agrees. After a recent visit to the Ivy, he's already planning a return trip.
"I was blown away," said Beckerman, founder and CEO of Trunk Ltd., an apparel and accessories company. "This in L.A. would be over the top, incredible. It would kill."
The Ivy's owners say their hotel concept is consistent with the times — and the neighborhood.
Ten years ago, Kelly and his sister Louise opened a bar called the Bitter End in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. Since then, the surrounding downtown has undergone a major renaissance, thanks to construction of the Petco Park baseball stadium and a $216-million overhaul of the San Diego Convention Center.
In the last seven years, convention business has more than doubled; 574,000 convention attendees came last year, many of them executives who have expense accounts to burn on swanky soirees, pricey rooms and hard-to-find wines.