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Usually when we hear of a Chatwal hotelier in the news, it's often about Vikram Chatwal, the troubled hotelier behind The Dream Hotel brand. But today, it's Vikram's father who's in the news. And it's pretty serious.
The Daily News reports that Sant Singh Chatwal, the chairman of Hampshire Hotels & Resorts which includes his namesake, The Chatwal Hotel, pleaded guilty to "recruiting straw donors to make illegal campaign contributions to three federal candidates." He also pleaded guilty to tampering with a witness who he allegedly told to lie to the FBI and the IRS.
Chatwal stepped down as CEO of Hampshire Hotels earlier this month (probably because of the charges) but remains on as chairman. Eric Danziger, formerly CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, took Chatwal's place. Wyndham franchises the Dream and Night hotels which were started by Chatwal.
Meanwhile, Chatwal faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $200,000 when he's sentenced on July 31. He also offered to pay the U.S. government $1 million in restitution.
This is not the first time Chatwal has been in trouble with the government. Back in 2012, it was discovered that The Chatwal Hotel pretended to be a church for several years to avoid paying taxes. (It's a long story but the hotel was previously a church and the hotel never changed that status.) Let's hope this is the last of the Chatwal crimes.
[Photo of Chatwal and Danziger via Rediff]
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The downstairs restaurant at Dream Downtown hasn't exactly had an easy run. First, it opened as the "theatrical dining" concept Romera, by neurologist-turned-chef Miguel Sanchez Romera. The NY Times panned it. Then, earlier this year, a BondSt sushi spin-off opened in the form of Japanese-French fusion joint Cherry.
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New York is a fast-moving place. People are on the go. Neighborhoods get gentrified. And hotels don't just sit around either. This month, the 210-room Stay Hotel in Times Square got bored and decided to reinvent itself with a new name: Night Hotel Times Square. This makes it the second "Night" hotel in Manhattan after the original Night Hotel on W 45th St, just two blocks away.
So…what else is changing aside from the new name? Well, as it turns out, not a whole lot.
UPDATE, 3:21pm: We've received a response from Hampshire Hotels & Resorts, who tells us that while the Chatwals have indeed assumed a small equity stake in The Plaza, Fairmont will remain as the hotel's management group. So that stomps out any rumors about a possible Chatwal rebranding!
At the beginning of the summer, reports emerged—and then were confirmed—that the India-based Sahara Group had bought the historic Plaza Hotel for an alleged $600 million. Interestingly, Sahara is the same company who in August also bought a controlling stake in the Chatwals' Dream Downtown.
Never in a million years did we imagine what would happen next.
Haven't filed your taxes yet? Putting them off 'til the last minute? Don't worry—even if you rush through them, you can't possibly come out looking as bad as The Chatwal, who, it was discovered this weekend, have been quietly avoiding the huge expense of running a hotel in Times Square by pretending to be a church.
Though it sounds completely nuts and like something out of a bad Tom Cruise movie from the 90s, there is some logic behind it. You see, the building in which the Chatwal currently resides used to actually be a church, with pews, a priest, parishioners, the whole nine yards.
Of course, none of that has actually been a part of the scene here since the hotel took over five years ago. But that didn't stop the hotel from hanging onto the former church's tax exemptions—even while it was charging guests upwards of $500/night. Not very church-like, if you ask us!
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Romera is located in the Dream Downtown's basement, and its chef Miguel Sanchez Romera, is a former neurologist who decided to show the world how he thought molecular gastronomy should be done. But judging from Pete Wells' recent review for the New York Times, the various tasting menus, (6-course, $125 ; 9-course, $185; 12-course, $245) sound more like a tutorial in how to make very pretty food art.
Disappointing—and kind of ironic—for the Dream Downtown, which until now had proven to be an exceptionally pretty addition to the NYC hotel scene. A "Romerian mosaic" (the pattern of brightly colored spices and powdered vegetables seen above, and on many of the dishes) would be great to look at in a museum. But for dinner? Folks wanna munch, not ponder!
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Last we heard, Hampshire Hotels & Resorts, which manages all the Chatwal properties, was being taken over by Wyndham (yeah, it all gets a little confusing after a while, doesn't it?), which was going to help take the brands "to the next level." The way we see it, Chatwal was so pleased with the success of Dream Downtown, he just couldn't wait to bring a little (or a lot) of that same sexiness to Indian hotel guests. Aiming to pump out 52 new hotels over the next five years (40 Nights, 12 Dreams), now Hampshire/Wyndham just have to convince Indian investors and franchisees to share the 'dream' (get it?).
The gossip site posted a series of photos of Lohan and Vik inside Vik's apartment in Soho doing whatever it is two people like Lohan and Vik do. Apparently, these shots were taken before Lohan's disastrous attempt to get into some Fashion Week parties at the Dream Hotel.
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A lot of talk is flying around these days about a potential expansion into India (as well as London) by big-time hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, who is Indian himself. Citing the "maximum potential" and "7%-9% growth rate" of India's current economy in this article, Chatwal makes it clear he has his brand-oriented mind set on expanding his luxury hotels onto Indian turf.
But until we get shots of a construction site, we have to scratch our heads and wonder: when will this Dream become a reality?
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Folks at The Chatwal (now a Luxury Collection hotel) are so excited about the season five premier of Mad Men, they've gone ahead and launched a brand spankin' new Mad Men luxury package for guests—despite the fact that episodes won't even hit the airwaves until mid-March 2012.
Controversy surrounding the new season has been circulating for a while now, and it was only two weeks ago that the official production schedule get released. So filming starts today. But in as little as three weeks, future Chatwal guests will start enjoying Old-Fashions and 90-minute massages as part of the package.
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It's official! The still-not-open-but-almost-there Dream Downtown hotel on the edge of Manhattan's Chelsea and Meatpacking Districts has a sense of humor. And truly, if there's something we've learned while observing the lives of the hotels around this area, a sense of humor is a serious key for survival.
The Dream Downtownor "The Cheesegrater" as we've preferred to call it since last yearowned up to their extreme similarity to the culinary tool by actually sending us a cheesegrater, complete with their logo attached. The Dream Downtown may have been delayed for ever and ever and their website might look like Karim Rashid did it for homework (and he might have; his studio is on the block), but the Dream Downtown knows it looks just like a kitchen utensil and it's okay with that. So rock on, Cheesegrater. We can't wait to see what you've been hiding under the slick, silver exterior of yours this summer.
A pic of the hotel itself, behind the cheesegrater:
It's been nearly four years since Lohan was arrested for her DUIs and she has yet to find redemption in the eyes of the American public and the legal system. Meanwhile, it's been nearly four years since Vikram hit his "finest hour" as a hotelier. After that, it seems he has largely been letting his father, Sant Singh, run the Vikram Chatwal Hotels business which includes the Dream and the Night Hotels brand (now in partnership with Wyndham.)
So maybe it was only a matter of time before these two met up.
We thought we spied Vik in one of these pics of Lohan out on the town in New York. Plus when we heard Linz was staying at a hotel in midtown we wondered whether it was the Dream. But as it turns out Vik put her up in the new luxe Chatwal Hotel. Page Six reports: