Chateau Marmont is set to be turned into a private club and residence, but apparently non-members will still be allowed in, at least to a degree.
Since being effectively closed in March and laying off its entire staff (launching rumors it was being sold or would not reopen), the owner of the famed Hollywood hotel, Andre Balazs, told The Wall Street Journal that the pandemic has led him to shift away from a pure hospitality play. The hotel now has a small number of guests and staff on hand, but it is nowhere near its usual capacity.
Hotels, restaurants and bars have been some of the worst-hit businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the leisure and hospitality sector has lost 4.8 million jobs since February, more than construction, manufacturing, retail, education and health services combined.
But the Chateau will still be open to the public, Balazs told Variety. How much of it, though, is still under consideration.
A spokeswoman for the hotel said there will likely be at least “a restaurant and a bar” that is not reserved for future members, some of whom will become partial owners of the property under Balazs’ new plans. While people will now be able to buy into the Chateau, including through the purchase of permanent residences, Balazs will stay the majority owner of the property.
Apparently there is interest in this shift. The spokeswoman said when the move to a private club and residence was revealed last week, phones at the hotel “were ringing off the hook” and Balazs personally heard from “a lot of people” who were interested. The Chateau has long been a go-to for celebrities and Hollywood-types, and many famous names have long treated it as a residence, however temporary.
When exactly the transition to a club and residence is set to take place is somewhat unclear, but “the anticipation is that the process will start in the next year,” the spokeswoman said. Timing will depend largely on the pandemic and when it’s under control.
Los Angeles is home to a number of clubs, but the newest and most revered is the San Vicente Bungalows, owned by Jeff Klein, who also operates Chateau rival, the Sunset Tower Hotel. Its dedication to privacy (no camera phones allowed, a secretive committee reaches out to prospective members) for famous guests has made it a new kind of hot spot (it has also laid off employees amid the pandemic). But SoHo House came before, and is still a popular club for Hollywood types on both coasts. Neither club offers full-time residences for purchase, like the Chateau is planning.
An interesting thing to note about the Chateau is it was designed and built in the late Twenties as an apartment building. Many of the rooms, as past guests will likely have noticed, are laid out like smallish apartments, many even with living rooms and full kitchens. And each room has its own air ventilation system. All of these attributes are holdovers from its time as a residential building, which ended early in the Great Depression when it was sold and turned into a hotel.
So construction to the interior is likely, but it may not end up being extensive.
As for the staff of the hotel, the Chateau said it is still planning to bring workers back, even with the expected changes. But it will be on an as-needed basis and with more senior staff members being brought back first. So far, the hotel has only brought back six people.
Laid off workers have staged protests outside of the Chateau, alongside community supporters, in an effort to bring awareness to abrupt layoffs in March, which included no severance and no coverage of health-care benefits. Balazs cut his workforce the same day Los Angeles went into an effective lockdown in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.
A public fund to help support the laid off workers was created after some public outcry, and Balzas contributed $100,000, but it took some time for it to be distributed, according to workers. It was officially distributed in late May, with payouts based on years worked. The highest payments reached $5,000 per worker, the Chateau spokeswoman said.
A representative of the union representing the workers could not be reached for comment.