Can the new Public Hotel do for hospitality what Studio 54 did for nightlife? Ian Schrager, founder of both, says “yes.”
Legendary hotelier Ian Schrager wants to redefine the concept of luxury with the new Public hotel.
Tell us a little bit of the thought process behind the Public hotel. I saw a void in the marketplace. Everything changes. Fashion changes, culture changes, art changes, cars we drive change, even the kitchen appliances we use change. And for some reason hotels haven’t. In addition to that, the definition of luxury has changed. I don’t think it’s about status and prestige, or how much something costs. I think it’s really about how it makes you feel.
What did Jean-Georges Vongerichten, someone so associated with fine dining, think about the luxury-for-all concept and how that might relate to his restaurant for the hotel? He loves it. He thinks it’s a great idea. The hotel and the restaurant are not dumbed down. We’re not appealing to the lowest—we’re appealing to the highest common denominator.
I was struck by the hotel’s public spaces. They’re so pronounced and beautifully designed—almost like a multistory club. Was that a part of the thinking as well—the idea of what a public space could be? It just made sense to do a public space that was a microcosm of the best New York City had to offer. We were trying to make a hotel more than just a place to sleep. If you wanted to go to the best restaurant, the best bar, the best club, to see the best entertainment, or the best cultural events, it just made sense [to have it] right downstairs—never having to leave. It’s almost like a social and community-center space.
In your new coffee-table book about Studio 54 (Rizzoli, $75), you mention your fear that the club was so big it would look empty if there weren’t enough people. Are you still dogged by those fears? Of course. I’m always afraid that I’m going to throw a party and no one is going to come. I was then, and I still am. That’s what makes me so relentless, I suppose.
It’s not easy to make the It spot. How do you do it? You have to create magic. If you ask me how you do that, I couldn’t tell you. I think it’s just a question of mastering all the details. Put it all together. When you do that, the alchemy happens, and people respond to it. There’s no map. It’s done very intuitively.
Is it about pleasing others or pleasing yourself? Well, honestly, I think any creative person knows things that they themselves like and then they’re always amazed that other people also like them. I think probably the great fashion designers do the clothes they love. The great film directors do the kind of movies they like. That’s the way to be true to yourself. You happen to be lucky if what you’re doing is also something that resonates with lots of people.
Did writing the Studio book make you nostalgic, or would you choose a different adjective? I’m not a really nostalgic person. I more loved putting it into context and kind of trying to explain why it’s become such a phenomenon and why it continues to mesmerize people.
Still, was there one memory that just grabbed you by the heart and wouldn’t let go? I remember the first night we opened. I had left, I was exhausted. The whole place had been built in six weeks. Steve [Rubell, the club’s cofounder] called me up early the next morning—he was just getting in—telling me that we were on the front page of the New York Post. That’s one of the fond memories.
You left when it was going well, but you didn’t realize it was going to be as big as it was. Right. How could you?
It’s been about two months since the Public hotel opened. Is it too soon to say it’s a success? If it was Studio, I’d be going home now. 215 Chrystie St., 212-735- 6000; publichotels.com