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Ian Schrager Talks NYC Plans and Politics at Public Chicago's Anniversary Party

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October 12, 2012 at 2:39 PM | by | ()

Hotelier boss-dog Ian Schrager talks with HC on hotels, politics, and a side of disco

We're not very good at hiding when we have a crush on a hotel brand, so we'll fess up to being Public Chicago devotees. It was launched by hotelier-extraordinaire Ian Schrager on October 11, 2011 and is celebrating its one-year anniversary.

To mark the occassion, Schrager brought in his buddy, old-school Studio 54 DJ John "Jellybean" Benitez (you wouldn't know Madonna without him)to man the turntables and rock the crowd.

We were thrilled to be invited to a party where even Billy Zane couldn't stop grooving, but before we danced, we took a few minutes to ask Schrager about his latest hotel plans and what financial advice he'd give Chi-Town's own President Obama.

The Public Chicago crowd danced 'til 2 a.m. Wednesday morning and still didn't want to leave.

HotelChatter:Is the phrase "boutique hotel" dead? What's the next phase for this business?
Ian Schrager:I call them lifestyle hotels and it all depends on what space they're in. Product distinction matters. Reservation systems and all those other things big hotel companies love--that will change. You're going to see better design, exciting food and beverage concepts, and good bars. Boutique was a word my partner Steve [Rubell] invented. It was his way of explaining to people what we were trying to do. All the other hotels were department stores--all things to all people. We were boutique and doing specific things. But the word has been been overused and taken on a life of its own like Frankenstein.

HC:What's your take on the booming New York hotel scene and will there be a Public New York?
IS:There's going to be a few Public's in New York, which I'm on the verge of announcing. I'm a little reluctant to get the details out there, because if I start talking about what I'm doing and it doesn't come to fruition, then I have to retract myself. But, we're talking about got a couple of new builds and renovations. To me, I could easily have three, four or five hotels in New York.

HC:If you were to pick a hotel to stay at in New York, where would it be?
:(laughs) New York, I normally stay in my apartment. But, I know what's going on! There are a lot of good hotels and a lot of young guys coming up. I think I like what Eric Goode and Sean Macpherson do the best. André Balazs does a good job as well as the Ace guys. They're are a lot of people coming in and making good contributions.

HC:You've taken bad times and turned them around. President Obama comes from Chicago and faces some challenges--what advice would you give him?
IS:The best thing you can do during a bad market is have a distinctive product. I opened up my first hotel Morgans when interest rates where 22% and everyone thought the country was going to fall into the ocean. If you've got something unique and distinctive, there's always going to be people who will go with it. Don't try to time the cycle if you've got a good idea. If you have a reason for doing something, just do it. If it's during hard times it means financing might be difficult, getting capital may be difficult, but that doesn't impact the overall idea. Public had nothing to do with the economy being in a bad way. I just thought about a less expensive hotel that was as sophisticated as a luxury hotel that offered great service, exciting food and beverage, but you didn't have to spend $10, you could spend $2. It just made a lot of sense.

HC:Last question. Am I going to like this music tonight? Will Jellybean play music I recognize from Studio 54?
IS:You're going to like it. You're not going to be able to sit still!

He was right.

[Photos: Chanize Thorpe/HotelChatter]

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