The Chelsea Hotel in NYC – meeting point of Warhol and Madonna – reopens

The storied Hotel Chelsea is back after a harrowing 11-year hiatus – and this time it really is, after repeatedly failing to live up to reopening predictions.

After years of widespread intrigue and uncertainty, the fabled former hangout of Andy Warhol, Jack Kerouac and scores of New York artists, filmmakers, musicians and all manner of wacky characters quietly returned this month.

Behind a jumble of black construction netting, the Chelsea is already taking bookings for two floors of guest rooms — which we discovered upon stepping into the atmospheric lobby tucked under a sidewalk construction bridge.

The excavations are initially offered at bargain prices. The hotel’s website states: “As the Hotel Chelsea emerges from rehab, we are offering a few rooms at ‘hard hat’ prices to guests who are willing to tolerate a bit of construction.” The project is still a work in progress, its red brick facade hidden behind netting.

According to property officials, the venue will fully reopen by the end of this summer with 155 restored guest rooms. They contacted us to announce the reopening of the romantic Spanish restaurant El Quijotewhich was dark for four years.

The eatery quietly reopened a few weeks ago. Now run by Brooklyn-based Sunday Hospitality and its partner Charles Seich, it’s smaller than the original but just as atmospheric with restored Cervantes-style murals and red leather booths — and much better food than before.

Chelsea hotel lobby
The lobby of the new hotel retains a historical flair and attracts a new generation of guests. Two floors of the Chelsea Hotel are open at a “Hard Hat” rate while the rest of the hotel is getting the finishing touches.
Steve Cuozzo

Few more details were available on the hotel’s full reopening. A lobby worker said, “We’re shooting for September.”

But it’s news enough that the owners, Richard Born, Ira Drukier and Sean Macpherson, partners at BD Hotels, have successfully completed their six-year quest to bring the 12-story landmark back to life as a luxury boutique condominium hotel to have.

The trio bought money-hungry Chelsea — which The Wall Street Journal dubbed “Wall Street’s money pit” — for $250 million in 2016. Past owners at different times have included real estate mogul Joseph Chetrit and Pershing Square Capital billionaire Bill Ackman.

Stanley bard
Longtime manager Stanley Bard ran the Chelsea Hotel in a casual style, with the New York Times saying in a 2017 obituary that he was the “Robin Hood of innkeepers”.
Tim Wiencis
Historical image of the Chelsea Hotel
The hotel has attracted an interesting cast of characters over the years.
Bettmann Archive

The new team held out through a tangle of court cases, a dispute with the city’s housing maintenance and development agency, and repeated construction delays.

Some of the 50 or so tenants who had rent-stabilized leases sued the owners for alleged harassment – prompting work stoppages from the Department of Works that further slowed things down.

For decades, funky Chelsea has been home to the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there, Mark Twain, poets Dylan Thomas and Allen Ginsberg, and jazz musicians Chet Baker and Chick Corea.

Chelsea Hotel
The excavations are initially offered at bargain prices.
Steven Cuozzo
Chelsea Hotel
The hotel will fully reopen in late summer with 155 restored guest rooms.
Steve Cuozzo

Andy Warhol made films at Chelsea with actress Viva and other of his “superstars” calling the place home. Madonna, who lived there in the early 1980s, returned in 1992 to shoot photos for her book Sex.

In perhaps the most infamous episode, Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sex Pistols frontman Sid Vicious, was stabbed to death there in 1978.

The Chelsea has long been run by Stanley Bard, an eccentric figure who, on his death in 2017, the New York Times dubbed “the innkeeper’s Robin Hood” because of his penchant for under-feeding the residents he liked to calculate – if he calculated them at all.

Now the Chelsea is finally in stable hands. BD operates two dozen hotels in the city, including the Maritime, Jane, and Bowery hotels. The Chelsea Hotel in NYC – meeting point of Warhol and Madonna – reopens


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