Ian Schrager and New York City go back a long way.
With Steve Rubell, he founded one of New York’s most notorious nightclubs, Studio 54, which is still to this day a source of fascination.
After Studio 54’s closure, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell turned their attention to hotels. They founded Morgans Hotel Group which credits itself as the founder of the concept of the “urban resort” with Philippe Starck designed interiors, “see and be seen” bars, and celebrity-filled launch parties.
In New York, this took the form of the Hudson. It’s a hotel we have heard many stories about. This is why we’ve never stayed there. By Ian Schrager’s own admission, the Hudson may have had the cool factor, but it did not get the service ethos right.
Ian Schrager’s latest hotel concept is “Public”. The hotel is located in a newly constructed building in the Bowery district of New York at 215 Chrystie Street. This is not the first Public Hotel. That opened in Chicago in late 2011 in a refurbished property, but has since been sold.
About Public Hotel
The concept of Public is “Luxury For All”.
One of the principles behind this is “only give people what they want”. At Public, there are no porters, bellboys or concierge desks. Given the tipping culture in the US, many would regard this as a welcome relief!
You check-in online the day before your stay. On arrival, you collect your room key from a “Public Advisor”, who give as good a welcome as any luxury hotel, in the lobby.
In the room, there is no minibar. Room service is not offered. When you leave, you use an iPad in the lobby to check your self or are checked out automatically.
Making An Entrance
The Ian Schrager influence is very much in evidence on arrival at the property.
Who knew you could get excited about a set of escalators!?
Hotels have long designed public areas aimed at attracting locals and non-staying visitors to the property. However, Public takes this to another level.
The public areas are simply vast. On the ground floor, there is a shop “Trade”, a deli “Louis” selling sandwiches, salads etc, a bar, and Kitchen restaurant. On the first floor there is another bar and vast seating area. By day, this is filled with people staring into their Apple MacBooks. By night, locals gather for post-work drinks.
There are also rooftop bars and restaurants. Alas, the New York weather got in the way of a visit during our stay.
One genuinely distinctive feature in New York are two gardens at the front and rear of the property. The latter can be used for private events.
The one thing that is arguably missing is a rooftop pool, but it’s a safe assumption this was discounted on cost grounds.
This is a “Queen Good View” room.
Even by New York standards, it is certainly “compact”. However, there is a lot to like. The design of the room has been carefully thought through. You’d be forgiven for thinking it had been designed by MUJI.
There are floor to ceiling windows, which also open. The hotel also promises the blinds shut out all noise and light from the street. Being Manhattan, it is guaranteed there will be some construction work nearby. Although the bed is positioned adjacent to the window, you can just about get out of both sides.
In a sign of the hotel’s target market, there are at least 10 USB charging sockets dotted all over the room. You can stream videos/music from your smartphone to the in-room TV/Bose speaker. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next hotel innovation is to do away with in-room TVs altogether.
Not pictured are the shower and WC in a separate closet. The sink is part of the main room. There is a small wardrobe and a chiller with bottled water.
Is It Worth It?
By New York standards, where room rates at even the most mediocre hotels can reach stratospheric levels during peak times, Public is good value.
For a hotel of this standard, the room rates are reasonable. The W Hotel chain, which has many characteristics of Public and is generally underwhelming in New York (there is a lot of history between Schrager and W Hotels), typically charges a substantial premium for its “cool factor”. Compared to the W, which is possibly the most marmite hotel brand there is, it does feel more substantial, and not contrived or ostentatious.
It would of course be naive to think that a new Manhattan property has been built without running the slide rule over how every part of the hotel generates maximum revenue. Clearly, there are savings. The rooms are on the small side and there are relatively fewer staff (though support is just a phone call away and all staff interactions were very positive). All the public areas are designed to generate revenue from guests and visitors, day and night.
However, if you are the kind of guest where you feel you can look after yourself in New York and don’t need staff on hand all the time, this is great option.