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Feud Between Owner And Operator Keeps NYC’s Four Seasons Hotel Shuttered

The art nouveau-inspired entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel New York.

More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the Midtown outpost of the Four Seasons Hotel is still shut, and it may not reopen any time soon.

The owner of the luxury hotel, located at 57 East 57th St., is in a standoff with hotel management over operating costs and profitability, the New York Post reported.

Like many of New York City’s other hotels, the Four Seasons Hotel shut its doors in March 2020, during the onset of the pandemic. But while its rivals — such as the St. Regis, the Mandarin Oriental and the Ritz-Carlton — all reopened over a year ago, entrances to the Four Seasons remain barricaded and the windows covered with brown paper, according to the Post.

The Four Seasons had reportedly been losing money since at least 2018. Owner Ty Warner is allegedly unhappy with the hotel operator's upkeep fees, while the operator has refused to adjust fees to match hotel profitability. 

“It’s clear that Four Seasons and Ty Warner don’t see eye-to-eye on very much, which makes it difficult to reach an agreement and move forward,” an unnamed source told the Post.

The two parties have reportedly been in negotiations for 18 months in an attempt to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the Four Seasons’ website says the hotel is “temporarily closed as it is undergoing substantial infrastructure and maintenance work that is expected to last well into 2022.”

However, that language has reportedly been up for around a year, with the hotel telling union representatives it was targeting a spring 2022 reopening, according to the Post. The operator of a nearby restaurant said that he had never seen trucks or vehicles unloading materials, in a way that would indicate interior improvements, outside of the hotel.

Warner, who rose to fame when his soft toy brand Beanie Babies made him a billionaire, bought the 54-story building designed by I.M. Pei for $275M in 1999. The Four Seasons reportedly had annual operating income of around $30M at the time, having opened seven years prior to Warner’s purchase.

Workers are also reportedly suing both the Four Seasons and Warner, claiming that the dispute is a purposeful stalling to avoid paying millions of dollars in severance and unpaid wages, the Post reported. Workers filed a similar lawsuit against Warner’s Biltmore Four Seasons Hotel in Santa Barbara, California, in February this year, claiming $8M in unpaid wages.

NYC’s hotels have had a rough ride since the start of the pandemic, with labor and operational costs rising across the board — catalyzing both heavily discounted sales of the Times Square Sheraton and Hilton hotels, and conversions of other hotels into residential properties. However, tourist demand for hotel rooms returned to pre-pandemic levels last summer, and revenue per available room reached 5% above 2019 levels this summer.