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NEW YORK — Following a rocky few years, hotelier Edward Scheetz has launched a new hospitality brand Chelsea Hotels, an offshoot of the King & Grove Hotels.
After parting ways with his former business partner Joseph Chetrit last fall, Scheetz wound up with five of their 14 properties — the Hotel Chelsea, the Martha Washington Hotel, King & Grove Williamsburg, King & Grove New York and Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk.
Pandiscio Co. is handling the redesign of all the properties. As part of the rebranding, King & Grove Williamsburg has reopened as McCarren Hotel and Pool. In late August, King & Grove New York will relaunch under the hotel’s original name, Martha Washington, and a new project, Astor Hotel, will bow in 2016.
Chelsea Hotels is ironing out partnerships with yet-to-be-named designers to create uniforms for staffers. “Fashion is an important market for us hopefully in terms of the clientele, guests and corporate accounts, and also in terms of events. We expect that at all of our properties that fashion will be one of the major industry groups in both guest stays, as well as in the restaurants, lounges and bars,” Scheetz said.
Cobranding and hosting special events will be part of that effort, as well as strengthening the existing ties some Chelsea executives have with the fashion community. The historic Hotel Chelsea, which was built in 1884, is undergoing a major overhaul and will reopen next year. As the company’s centerpiece, the Hotel Chelsea’s storied culture and sense of community “is welcoming of all types of people from all walks of life, the tradition, history and fabric of New York old and new,” is something Scheetz aims to duplicate. “That core capacity is what we want our other properties to share.”
Scheetz is no longer affiliated with another Montauk property, The Surf Lodge, in which he took a minority stake in 2008. A 2012 legal dispute between him and the majority owners was resolved last summer. Scheetz reportedly filed a suit, alleging among other things they diverted funds to their nightclub properties. The Surf Lodge’s majority owners later filed their own suit, reportedly claiming King & Grove mismanaged the hotel and stole the concept to launch Ruschmeyer’s. “There was litigation. It was not that pleasant, but we got it done,” said Scheetz, emphasizing that he is not involved with The Surf Lodge’s new owners.
He faced a more dire legal matter in 2007. At that time, Scheetz resigned as president and chief operating officer of the Morgans Hotel Group after 24-year-old Michelle Hatchel died of a drug overdose while staying with Scheetz in his luxury condo in Las Vegas. In 2010, a lawsuit against Hatchel and Morgans was settled out of court.
As for how what happened in Las Vegas changed him, Scheetz said, “Obviously, it was a traumatic experience and period of my life. But it gave me not by choice, the chance to have a fresh look at things overall both in terms of my family and my children, and also my professional career. So it was a break that you know in a sense forced me to think about my future in broad terms. And it ended up being very positive with my kids and I think also professionally. It’s what sort of gave me the ability to start King & Grove and now Chelsea.”
While substance abuse is known to be an ongoing issue in the fashion industry, as it is in other industries, Scheetz was asked whether he had any reservations about the nature of hotel nightlife in terms of potentially providing a forum for that. “We don’t believe in nightclubs at hotels. I never have. For that reason, as well as others, it’s a dangerous mix. It tends to be a clientele that even in the classier clubs is going to be disruptive to the hotel experience, which is really what is most important to us,” Scheetz said. “I know a lot of boutique hotels like to have a flashy nightclub that is associated with it and the p.r. they get from that is supposed to be a positive. But I’ve never believed that that was a good combination.”
Scheetz noted that lounges, bars and restaurants are offered, singling out King & Grove Williamsburg’s two-star Michelin chef Paul Liebrandt as an example of the caliber of dining. This fall Danny Meyer will open “a brand new [restaurant] concept” in the Martha Washington with the chef and team from Maialino, he said. Several other major restaurant-related announcements are in the works. “We focus on the restaurant quality and experience, and the associated bars and lounges but we don’t do nightclubs,” Scheetz said.