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Wednesday, November 17, 2023

NYC’s Four Seasons Hotel poised for spring reopening, but spat over fees looms

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New York’s Four Seasons Hotel is angling to reawaken from a two-year, COVID-driven slumber this spring — even as its management company and the building’s owner squabble over fees.

The head of the union representing hotel workers tells The Post preparations are underway to reopen after the virus lockdown and a subsequent renovation shut the iconic, I.M. Pei-designed building on East 57th Street in March 2020.

But the possible reopening faces a major stumbling block: The building’s owner, Beanie Babies founder Ty Warner, remains in a long-simmering fight with the owner of the Four Seasons name, which manages the property. 

Warner contends the fees he pays to Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts should be adjusted based on the hotel’s profitability, sources tell The Post. The Toronto-based company, which manages high-end properties around the world, disagrees.

Even if Warner and the hotel’s management company can’t hammer out their differences, Warner could still be on track to reopen the hotel, a source familiar with the matter told The Post — especially because a drawn-out legal battle over fees could take up to two years, the source said.

Scaffolding surrounds the Four Seasons Hotel New York.
The property housed medical workers at no cost from April to June of 2020 and it has remained closed ever since.
James Messerschmidt
The lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel New York.
Former housekeepers and other hotel employees are assisting with a renovation of the Four Seasons, which is expected to reopen in Spring 2022.
Getty Images for Zero Halliburto

“At the end of the day, if the owner can start making more money by reopening, it will pursue that path despite the ongoing discussions between ownership and management,” the source said. 

Rich Maroko, president of the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council union, said signs indeed point to the hotel reopening, though he also concedes that he’s aware of the “conflict between ownership and management.”

Some of the Trades Council’s members have been called back to assist in the renovation. He says the hotel’s management told him it would reopen this spring. The hotel’s website says renovations will last “well into 2022.”

The entrance of the Four Season Hotel with barricades.
The hotel is one of the most expensive properties in New York City.
Getty Images

Housekeeping attendants and others are helping to move furniture around and clean up after the construction crews, Maroko said.

Another signal a reopening is in the works: The union secured a rich deal for the hotel’s employees — weekly “bridge” payments of $350 starting Sept. 6 for some 225 workers who want to return to the hotel when it reopens. And in mid-October those payments were bumped up to $500 a week when the city passed the Hotel Workers Severance Bill. 

Ty Warner wearing a suit and tie, standing outside a building.
Ty Warner owns the hotel building, which he bought 28 years ago.

The payments are to continue for 30 weeks or until the property reopens, whichever comes first, according to the law. 

Another 100 employees who wanted to retire from the hotel took a lump sum severance payout of $10 million, Maroko said.

Except for a three-month stint hosting medical workers for free last year — the luxury property has been enshrined in scaffolding for the renovation as it was taken out of commission during the pandemic.

The 52-story hotel opened 28 years ago as the most expensive property in the city, commanding room rates of $400 a night at the time. Those rates have since soared to well over $1,000 per night. 

Warner bought the famed hotel, which is reportedly beloved by Lionel Richie and Jennifer Aniston and is the fourth-tallest hotel building in the US, with money earned from his Beanie Babies in 1999.

Warner didn’t immediately respond to a request from The Post to comment on a possible reopening. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts also did not immediately respond for comment.

Ty Warner holding a group of Beanie Babies in his arms.
Ty Warner made is his fortune as the founder of Beanie Babies.
The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

The 4,300-square-foot Ty Warner Penthouse on the top floor has 360-degree views of the city from its four glass balconies and is considered one of the most expensive in the world, renting for $50,000 a night.

The Four Seasons on 57th Street remains the only luxury hotel of its peers — including the St. Regis, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Lotte New York Palace and The Pierre — to not have reopened as the economy bounced back.

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