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

The Four Seasons hotel in New York is seeking to wake up from a two-year slumber due to the coronavirus this spring — even as the management company and the building owner squabble over fees.

The head of the union representing hotel workers told The Post that preparations are underway to reopen after the virus shutdown and the subsequent renovation that closed the iconic I.M. Pei-designed building on East 57th Street in March 2020.

But a potential reopening faces a major stumbling block: The building’s owner, Beanie Babies founder Ty Warner, is still in a long battle with the Four Seasons name owner, who runs the property.

Warner says the fees he pays to Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts should be adjusted based on the hotel’s profitability, sources told The Post. The Toronto-based company that manages luxury properties all over the world disagrees.

Even if Warner and the hotel management company can’t settle their differences, a source familiar with the matter told The Post, Warner could still be on his way to reopening the hotel – especially since a protracted legal battle over fees could take a long time. 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 has been closed ever since.
James Messerschmidt
The lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel New York.
Former housekeepers and other hotel employees are helping to renovate the Four Seasons Hotel, which is expected to reopen in the spring of 2022.
Getty Images for Zero Halliburto

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

Rich Marocco, president of the New York Hotel Federation and Board of Game Trade, said the signs do indeed indicate the hotel is reopening, though he also acknowledges that he is aware of “the conflict between ownership and management.”

Some members of the Board of Trade were called in to assist with the renewal. He says the hotel management told him that it will reopen this spring. The hotel’s website says renovations will continue “until 2022”.

Entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel with barriers.
The hotel is considered one of the most expensive properties in New York City.
Getty Images

Marroquín said housekeeping attendants and others help move furniture and clean it after construction crews.

Another sign of reopenings in the works: The union got a rich deal for hotel employees — weekly “bridge” payments of $350 starting Sept. 6 to about 225 workers who want to return to the hotel when it reopens. And in mid-October, those payments were pushed to $500 a week when the city passed the Hotel Workers Separation Act.

Ty Warner wears a suit and tie and stands outside a building.
Ty Warner owns the hotel building he bought 28 years ago.
ZUMAPRESS.com

Payments must last for 30 weeks or until the property reopens, whichever comes first, as per the law.

Marroquín said another 100 employees who wanted to retire from the hotel received $10 million in severance payments.

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

The 52-story hotel opened 28 years ago as the city’s most expensive property, with a room priced at $400 a night at the time. Those prices have since risen to more than $1,000 a night.

Warner bought the famous hotel, which is said to be beloved by Lionel Richie and Jennifer Aniston and is the fourth tallest hotel building in the United States, with money he got from Beanie Babies in 1999.

Warner did not immediately respond to a request from The Post for comment on a potential reopening. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts also did not immediately respond to comment.

Ty Warner holds a group of young children in his arms.
Ty Warner made his fortune as founder of Beanie Babies.
Live/Getty Images Collection

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

The Four Seasons at 57th Street remains the only luxury hotel of its peers — including the St. Regis, The Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Lotte New York Palace, and The Pier — not reopening as the economy returns to normal.

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