Hotelier of the Year: Jeff Klein
Socialite-turned-hotelier Jeff Klein's first project, New York's City Club Hotel, which opened back in 2000, was met with a bit of ho-humness by guests and media alike. We checked in back in April and were equally nonplussed. However, earlier this year Mr. Klein reopened the Argyle hotel as the Sunset Tower. Before Klein this once proud, historic hotel was just as polluted with Lohan's and Hilton's as any other Sunset Strip hotel, but Klein promised to change all that.
Back in 2005 Klein was quoted saying things like, "I'm the new Merv Griffin", as he moved into Howard Hughes old suite at the Argyle with his beagle. We figured this socialite was in over his head--the Argyle was a massive project. It would only be a matter of time now--then something strange happened--Klein started talking with vision.
I think the whole trendy nightclub lobby ridiculousness is so over, and people are so over it. I don't want to be the next Ian Schrager. I don't want to be known as trendy or hip, that's not what I'm doing. My market is someone who used to stay at a Schrager property, but wouldn't anymore.
My goal with the whole property (the Argyle) is to return it to its rich, turn-of-the-century past but infuse the design with a modern twist.
And finally, he dropped this:
I don't believe in buzz. Word of mouth is the buzz I want, but not by creating a fake scene. Consumers will be fooled by that for a couple months, but eventually you need to deliver good service, good food and good beds -- and you just can't mask it with ridiculousness.
2006 was the year Klein had to put up or shut up. And he put up. Though the Sunset Tower Hotel had its share of troubles early in the year, by the time we visited in November, it afforded us one of the most memorable hotel experiences we had this year. Unfettered WiFi, turn-of-the-century architecture with a modern twist, a calm, sceneless lobby with super helpful staffers, and the place somehow felt elegant in a town of excess.
Rumor is Klein's next project is in Paris, another location where "design without service" hotels have frustrated plenty of guests. At this point, we are not going to bet against Klein coming through.