When hotelier Ian Schrager’s PUBLIC premiered in 2017, the big idea was LUXURY FOR ALL.
A new kind of luxury that aimed to appeal to today’s younger generation.
Luxury without the price tag.
Throughout his career, Schrager has kept a few steps ahead of the pack and his concepts, which are invariably taken and copied ad infinitum, are always fresh and usually quite radical.
With business partner Steve Rubell he created and launched Morgans hotel in 1984 and then in 1987 he opened The Royalton hotel, both were profound gamechangers – it is generally agreed that they were the first ‘lifestyle/boutique’ hotels to open.
More recently he launched the EDITION hotels, a join venture with Marriott, were also innovative and remain at the forefront of ‘accessible style’ in the hotel world.
PUBLIC was in some ways experimental and lock-down has given Schrager the unique opportunity to fine-tune the concept and re-design where required.
As a concept, PUBLIC is built on four key pillars: service, style, unique experience and value although Schrager concedes that not everyone fully appreciated what it was all about.
Sometimes the simplest of ideas can become confusing in their translation.
Schrager has worked to clarify and demystify the idea of PUBLIC so people will understand it and what he is trying to accomplish.
He has re-imagined and re-thought all amenities and offerings at PUBLIC in a pursuit of excellence, and on his quest to create a hotel as close to perfection as possible.
PUBLIC and LUXURY FOR ALL is, says Schrager, a new idea for a new age.
It is intended to reflect a new time, a new reality, and a new way that people live.
According to Schrager the old idea of luxury needed an update, a revision to reflect what people actually want today.
“Everything changes, times change and people change”. says Schrager.
“Change is the only constant in life.
“Luxury as we once knew it has also changed, and will continue to change.
“The notion of luxury simply cannot be static and the same as it was in the past.
“It has to stay in step with the way modern people live.
“You cannot have an analogue definition of luxury in a digital world.
“The old and outdated idea of luxury was defined by how rich you were, where you lived, what car your drove and what fashion brands you wore.
“Luxury is no longer about those irrelevant and meaningless status symbols, material possessions or how much something costs.
“It’s not merely a business classification for marketers to sell to you.
“Luxury is humanity.
“Luxury is now accessible to everyone who wants it, and it should be.
“It’s egalitarian and democratized.
“Luxury today is about how something makes you feel, it’s emotional and visceral, and about comfort, ease, and convenience.
“Absolute freedom, to me, is contentment, emotional wellbeing, feeling good, protected and looked out for.”
“You can connect the dots all the way from Studio 54 to PUBLIC—that freedom to be yourself and to be happy and feeling good and protected that we sought at Studio 54, which I feel was one of the main reasons for its success, is the same that we seek at PUBLIC.” Ian Schrager.
Two imperatives to ensure a successful execution of LUXURY FOR ALL was rethinking the entire approach to service and the use of technology.
At PUBLIC, technology is smart, intuitive, effortless, user friendly, well thought out and hassle free.
It’s not technology for the sake of it.
“Our approach to technology was similar to Steve Job’s approach. ” says Schrager.
“We started with the need and what made things easier, quicker, cheaper and more convenient and then sought out the technology rather, than starting with the technology and searching for a use which usually turns out to be useless, pointless and pretentious—like gratuitous interactive display boards in a lobby.”
Every interaction was considered for ease, breakneck speed, efficiency and effectiveness.
Check-in and check-out are meant to be completely invisible and the Arrival/Departure experience seamless and holistic.
Guests can get up to their room using your mobile device just as quickly as they can get up to their home or office, which, to PUBLIC, is the ideal and the future.
Other technology offerings which make a stay effortless include a state-of-the-art app, live chat, web chat, mobile key and key sharing and major enhancements to the iPad check-in technology.
PUBLIC SERVICE, a brand new department, was created to solely support and help guests when they need it.
Service will be humanizing, friendly, caring, emotional, warm and empathetic, with ferocious follow through.
The focus was on universally appealing service such as being treated genuinely.
It won’t be obsequious service, but rather that which is attentive, unscripted and tailored for the individual—because service is not ‘one-size-fits-all’.
“We created PUBLIC SERVICE to ensure that when you came to the hotel and throughout your stay, you felt as if you were staying at your friend’s or family’s house who really cared about you and tried to be a gracious host—you felt good, cared for, dignified and at home.” says Schrager.
“It’s personalized comfort.
“We are genuinely concerned about looking after you.
“The inspiration came from the tech companies, such as Amazon and Apple, and how they have mastered customer service by providing support and guidance when needed in an instant.
“At PUBLIC, like them, we are customer and product obsessed.”
Schrager re-thought everything at PUBLIC and has introduced many new initiatives and offerings.
The popular oasis Chrystie Park has been thoughtfully redone with new landscaping by Madison Cox.
This lush, verdant garden park in the city with its plentiful variety of trees, flowers, plants and grasses will now be available for dining, drinking, lawn parties, picnics, sculpture installations and private events.
It’s PUBLIC’s own micro version of Central Park in downtown New York City.
LOUIS is a new restaurant and bar.
The new food and beverage offering brings together a collaboration between two outstanding world class award-winning chefs—Diego Muñoz and John Fraser.
It’s the first time ever that two chefs of this calibre are coming together, each with his own role, on a single project.
Schrager enthuses, “Two chefs working together like this is an unprecedented collaboration.
“No one is better suited to interpret the culinary intent of a great chef than another great chef.
“It is a first of its kind, with Chef Diego in the kitchen and Chef John running front of house, which makes it so unique and ensures a holistic experience.
“Previously, we were the first to recognize that the hotel’s bars and restaurants should be geared to the people of the city first and foremost, and visitors will want to go where the people in the know of that city go.
“We are taking this to a new level with Chef Diego and Chef John.
“With PUBLIC’s many outlets and the variety of culinary experiences, we are creating an immersive food bazaar that has never been seen before.”
The intimate Bowery Garden, the restaurant’s outdoor dining space, will be ideal for al fresco dinners and a special weekend brunch.
The faster, more casual, lively and less expensive Cantina and Pisco Bar will turn into a hot Latin club complete with curated live music and entertainment during the evening.
LOUIS is PUBLIC’s global, fast gourmet food bazaar, bakery and a sophisticated coffee and tea bar with handpicked domestic and international offerings.
It beckons with an eclectic array of prepared delicacies including New York City favourites and street foods curated by Michelin-starred chef John Fraser.
This combination of high and low creates a ‘combustible experience’ and variety.
Presenting the next standard in gourmet food markets, LOUIS serves freshly baked in house breads, bagels and other bakery items, wood-fired pizzas, salads, fine local and global coffees, teas, wine, beer, soft drinks and house-made bottled cocktails.
Popular’s Chef Diego crafts artisanal empanadas, ceviche bowls and Peruvian-style triple decker sandwiches, while Chef John spotlights reimagined New York City street foods, like kosher hot dogs and pretzels with spicy mustard, blending refinement and pop culture in every tasty bite.
Other food and beverage and entertainment offerings at the hotel include PUBLIC EXPRESS.
A room service offering delivered in less than 10 minutes with a “Do It Your Way” choice of dishes.
Options include Junk Food, Beverage, and Healthy, for vegan and wellness guests.
The Lobby will be a new destination for office-less and desk-less creatives who will come to work but have fun as well.
As leisure and work are more and more combined and the lines blur between home, office and hotel, Schrager sees more people desiring a social space to work, play, relax and create a sense of community.
It’s a SOCIALIZE “ON DEMAND” concept.
“I am finally getting to fully realize my dream for PUBLIC—It’s a new class of hotel and the best is yet to come.
“I have an incredible completely new management team—a dream team—to support me every step of the way to pull off this new idea.
“I feel so lucky to be living in New York City and to be getting our lives back.
“PUBLIC and NYC together are the perfect storm for the Renaissance that is inevitable for the city.
“The future holds great prosperity and forward-thinking creativity and I’m so grateful to be a part of it with PUBLIC,” says Schrager.
Photography: Nikolas Kroenig