BY MICHAEL LUONGO | New York is now home to a new gay hotel, the self-styled “straight-friendly” Out NYC in Hell’s Kitchen, on 42nd between 10th and 11th Avenues.
The 105-room hotel complex opened on March 1 with a rainbow ribbon-cutting, brought indoors because of rainy weather. First announced as a project nearly three years ago, and originally to be branded part of the Spanish Axel gay hotel chain, Out NYC’s development has and continues to be a multi-stage process.
XL, a rebirth of John Blair’s Chelsea nightclub, opened earlier this year. The hotel’s spa, still under construction, is slated to open on April 1, and the hotel lobby restaurant, Kitchin, the last part of the complex, will open in time for New York’s Gay Pride in June, according to Ian Reisner, one of the project’s developers.
The hotel’s design is by architect Paul Dominguez, also a partner in the project.
Reisner said of Out NYC, “We had a vision, and it is nice to see the vision came into reality. The timing could not have been better. Gay marriage was approved in New York. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military rule, has ended. Gay travel has never been better in New York. It’s a perfect time to be in the center of Manhattan.”
A New York native, he added, “I watched everything of gay New York disappear in the last 15 years,” and rattled off sites as diverse as the Big Cup and the Roxy –– part of a paradox of assimilation and LGBT rights advances that have left fewer visibly gay spaces in the city.
Reisner said the hotel was fully booked at the opening, explaining, we “began planning at the bottom of the economy in March of 2009. That is when we began this project. Fortunately, we are opening in much better times, and New York is receiving again a new record number of tourists.”
Rooms in the hotel have a minimalist black and white décor. Large by New York standards –– as are the bathrooms –– the rooms start at about $250 a room, to vary by season and demand. What the hotel calls “luxury hostel” rooms will be priced at $99 a bed space, with four full-size beds per dormitory room equipped with its own bathroom. Eight of these rooms are still under construction.
The hotel is a gut renovation of a motel structure built to accommodate tourists coming to New York for the 1964 World’s Fair. The glass-fronted lobby overlooks 42nd Street and leads to an entrance for XL nightclub, which also has a street entrance that opens into a long internal hallway designed to reduce noise and crowds queuing up on the street. Kitchin will also have a 42nd Street entrance.
The glass-enclosed spa opens into an open-air patio with a waterfall. A second outdoor patio, carpeted with Astroturf, labeled by the hotel as “the Great Lawn of Hell’s Kitchen,” is expected to be a site for weddings and parties. The complex’s first wedding, in XL, was officiated by Fran Drescher on March 6 as part of her New TV Land series “Happily Divorced.”
Hotel general manager David Lopez said that for New York, “it is a cultural change, this type of hotel. The fact it is uncharted waters is the exciting part.”
He added that OUT NYC is very different from the current gay B&B’s in New York, such as the Chelsea Pines Inn, or even mainstream hotels catering to the LGBT community.
“We have a gay hotel because it is a big change from going to a gay-friendly hotel to a gay hotel,” Lopez said. “It is still more of a place to be yourself.”
Labeling itself as “straight-friendly,” he noted, the hotel sends an additional message.
“The last bridge for gay travel is straight-friendly, and from there you get a hotel that is a melting pot where nobody cares what anybody is.” Lopez said.
THE OUT NYC
510 W. 42nd St.