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In all the stories about the Grammys and the Oscars that have come out over the past few weeks, there was one that really intrigued us – John Legend pulling out of a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, because of opposition to the Sultan of Brunei.
Very worthy, Mr Legend, we thought – but no more than we’d expect from the man who hired a food truck for Eric Garner protestors in New York.
But then we thought, wait. If Hollywood is boycotting the BHH, why has a top Grammys party been booked there in the first place? Has the boycott silently ended? Does sympathy with people who face an Isis-lite stoning for being gay go out of fashion?
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The sign of anti-views to come? On a recent stroll down Sunset Boulevard we couldn't help but notice some work going on across the street from The Beverly Hills Hotel. Sitting on one of the most in-your-face positions on Sunset and a major commuter route between LA and the Valley, is this less than lovely, walled mini-mansion that may become a permanent view from many of the hotel's guest rooms.
The Dorchester Collection Boycott came in like a lion in the spring, with high-profile celebrities vowing to never step foot again in the hotels so long as the homophobic (to say the least!) Sultan of Brunei owned them. Given that most celebrities frequented The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Pink Palace became the prime target of the hotel boycott.
But now a few months on, we hardly hear much about the boycott. Could it be that it has quietly died down? Or perhaps, the celebrities have just considered the boycott a part of their every day normal (ok, not-so-normal) life. Thus, this editor decided to stop in at the hotel and see for herself.
When I pulled up to the hotel at around 12:30 on a sunshiney Monday, the entrance was just as busy as I've always known it to be, with folks hopping out of their expensive cars to walk the red carpet into the hotel while town cars were picking up departing guests and their many pieces of luggage. Dignified doormen were, as always, accompanied by studly valet boys in light pink polo shirts, as they directed the light traffic in the narrow porte cochere.
Self-parking, already quite limited, was not available so I drove my car around to the other side of the property and parked on the street. As I walked along a winding walkway along the hidden pink bungalows and amongst lush greenery (vividly green even though Californias is in a severe drought), I passed by two people. A good sign, perhaps?
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If there’s one thing you can say about French restaurants, it’s that they’re not exactly known for being vegetarian-friendly *tries to expunge traumatic memories from teenage school trips from head*. Which makes this news even more spectacular: When Alain Ducasse reopens his eponymous restaurant at the Plaza Athenée today, the emphasis will be on vegetarian and pescatarian food. (Please note: this could also be a sign of the impending apocalypse.)
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Possibly aware of the controversy her visit might cause, or possibly to prevent any more wardrobe malfunctions, she arrived in a blacked out car, arrived and left via the back door, and took nine protection officers with her.
Meanwhile, Princes William and Harry hit up another Dorchester Collection venue at the weekend: Coworth Park, for a celeb charity polo event.
While the boycott of the Dorchester Collection Hotels is still in effect (kept alive by big names like Richard Branson, Jay Leno, Sharon Osbourne and several top fashion designers), employees of the hard-hit Beverly Hills Hotel have
been instructed by a crisis PR team taken it upon themselves to create their own Twitter feed-- @WeAreTheBHH.
The profile pic on the account is a simple "Stand With Us" message while the header photo is a portrait of all the men and women who work at the hotel, from housekeepers to groundskeepers to chefs and clerks.
Recent tweets on the account have included a shout-out to Russell Crowe and Rose McGowan, who have stood up for the hotel's employees (McGowan actually hosted a "gay-in" party at the hotel); a retweet of HotelChatter's last article on the boycott; and a link to this interesting blog post from a server at the Beverly Hill Hote's legendary Polo Lounge.
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The Sultan of Brunei has implemented the harsh Sharia law, like he said he would, and the CEO of the Dorchester Collection has publicly said that the Sultan would never sell his hotel collection. So where does the boycott go from here?
HR Magazine in the UK has a new list of why the boycott is wrong with the #1 reason being that all profits from the Dorchester Collection are re-invested back into the hotels.
The Dorchester Collection has annual revenue of £300 million, an insignificant amount compared to the estimated $30 billion in assets managed by the BIA. All profits from Dorchester Collection hotels are re-invested back into the hotels, according to DC vice president of people and organisational development Eugenio Pirri. Using it as a financial lever would have no impact on the BIA
(Hmm...why didn't the Dorchester Collection come out with this right away instead of saying that these situations are just a part of "every day life"?)
The article also listed several more hotels and hotel properties that are owned by Kingdom Holding Company of Saudia Arabia, which also punishes gay people with the death penalty. (To be more accurate, Kingdom Holding Company owns only about half of those companies.)
So is the boycott really doing any good? One HotelChatter commenter thinks not:
The boycott of the Dorchester Collection Hotels shows no sign of letting up, with power players in Hollywood targeting The Beverly Hills Hotel by pulling the hotel's biggest event contract, The Night Before The Oscars gala.
Jay Leno also recently joined a small crowd outside the Pink Palace on Monday to protest the extremely harsh sharia laws that the Sultan of Brunei, and owner of the Dorchester Collection, is enforcing back in his country. By 2015, these laws will include stoning people to death for being gay.
While Dorchester Collection released a statement a few weeks ago through a representative, the collection's chief executive officer, Christopher Cowdray, has released a new statement:
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Another day, another big name is boycotting the Dorchester Collection Hotels because of the new laws imposed by their owners in Brunei.
Sir Richard Branson tweeted this over the weekend:
That's a very strong statement from a luxury jet-setter like Branson who probably visits Dorchester hotels across Europe and in Beverly Hills on the regular. And we're glad he's done it. Expect more big names to follow Branson's lead.
Meanwhile, the city of Beverly Hills is actually working on a resolution condemning the government of Brunei and forcing them to "divest itself of the Beverly Hills Hotel." The council will meet tomorrow evening to officially vote on the resolution.
Given that the Dorchester Collection hoped to have 15 hotels in its portfolio by next year (they currently have 10), we can only wonder how this boycott will affect their expansion plans.
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The Sultan of Brunei--whose Brunei Investment Agency owns the luxurious Dorchester Collection of hotels--announced yesterday that the first phase of the adoption of Sharia law for his country has begun.
This first phase, which is guided by Islamic principles, will administer fines or jail terms for offenses like pregnancy out of marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers and propagating other religions. The second phase will start next year and will issue amputations and/or whippings for thefts or alcohol consumption. Later next year, the law will introduce the death penalty by stoning for adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad. While most of the tiny country is Muslim, about 15 percent of the citizens are non-Muslims yet they will still be subjected to Sharia law.
The law was supposed to go into effect a few weeks so there is speculation that the Sultan was wavering but clearly, he decided to go ahead with it.
Meanwhile, the boycott of Dorchester Hotels in Beverly Hills is heating up.
We don't want to quit you!
It looks like The Dorchester Collection has a very serious problem on their hands.
Last week, when the fashion world told people to boycott the hotel group because of their association with the government of Brunei, which will now stone people to death for being homosexual, Ellen DeGeneres also publicly tweeted that she too, will be boycotting both the Hotel Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel.
We've actually seen Ellen at the Beverly Hills Hotel, aka The Pink Palace, where her and wife Portia dined downstairs in the Fountain Coffee Shop, a popular spot for not just celebs but locals too. The hotel collection is clearly caught between a rock and hard place (no pun intended) as they continue to be open to all guests and have indeed said as much in a public statement last week:
Dorchester Collection’s Code, endorsed by the company’s ownership, emphasizes equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation, and strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees.”
Yet it doesn't sound like there's much more they can do without biting the hand that feeds them. It's sad because we pretty much love all the Dorchester Collection Hotels. At least to visit for lunch or drinks as we couldn't regularly afford the pricey hotel rooms anyways. So our problem is solved. But rich people with a conscious may have to wait a while.
What do you think--should guests boycott a hotel based on what the hotel owner says or does (see also: Donald Sterling or should guests put that aside and enjoy the hotel experience for what it is? Sound off in comments below!
What happens behind closed doors could have serious consequences in Brunei.
The Dorchester Collection hotel group is coming under fire from the fashion world and it could mean the loss of some very high-profile, and high-paying, guests.
The LA Times reports that the owner of the luxury hotel collection is the Brunei Investment Agency, an extension of the Brunei government just upped the penalty for being a homosexual from 10 years in prison to death by stoning.
Shoe designer Brian Atwood was the first to call attention to this new penalty on Instagram , then other fashion designers and those well-connected in the fashion world began to boycott the hotel groups in Europe during Fashion Week. That includes Principe di Savoia in Milan, Le Meurice in Paris and the flagship Dorchester Collection. It also includes our personal fave, The Beverly Hills Hotel. You can see the full list of Dorchester Collection Hotels here.
Given that the Dorchester Collection has a major stake in the fashion world--they offer the annual Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize and they teem up with various designers for promotions and offerings--this could have some very serious ramifications.
The hotel group, however, is trying to reassure its guests and its bold-named clientele in the fashion industry by reminding them that the laws of Brunei do not apply to their hotels. Here’s the statement they gave to the LA Times: