If you enter the lobby of the recently opened Ace Hotel on a weekday morning, you'll notice that the place is packed--with folks who aren't staying there. Unshaven men and fresh-faced women have taken up a daytime residence, typing away on their laptops, punching keys on their BlackBerrys, making calls, and openly conducting business meetings in the easy chairs.
Welcome to the city's hottest new office, where the attractive crowd sips gourmet coffee and seems to have the greatest jobs in the world--the kind that aren't confined to cubicles. It's all happening right off of 29th Street and 5th Avenue, the last place any clear-thinking New Yorker would consider hip. Until now.
The Ace Hotel's lobby cum coffeehouse, boasting cushy couches, dim lighting, rich, dark mahogany paneling, free Wi-Fi, and New York's latest buzzed import, Stumptown coffee, is a far cry from the cookie-cutter environments of its predecessors, the giant hotel chains and sterile Starbucks. The intoxicating idea of whittling away the hours in a cozy West Village cafe has moved uptown. The welcoming, wired space is the perfect fit for conducting business with the bare necessities: a laptop and a handheld. Hugging the long study table, the room's centerpiece, are jean-clad locals hunched over their MacBook Pros dreaming up the next wave of innovation. The prime real estate usually fills up with techies, writers, and entrepreneurs shortly after nine. One easily falls in love--it's the office space of dreams and the crowd continues to grow.
Even though the neighboring Breslin restaurant serves their hearty cuisine--think a chargrilled lamb burger and thrice (!) cooked chips--in the lobby, some of the economy-conscious pass on the $17 meal and pack brown bag lunches that they unfold right in front of the waiters. It's fitting, given that the hotel offers a $99/night "Starving Artist Rate" for 200 square foot rooms outfitted with bunk beds. How many starving artists can afford a $17 burger?
The hotel management moved to shoo away the caffeinated squatters this fall when they placed white placards on the tables. The firm instructions said, "Get a room: these seats are reserved for hotel guests only."
While it's understandable that the management would want to keep out those who take the amenities meant for paying guests, they walked a fine line. The hip crowd helped make the Siberia-located hotel a daytime destination and gave it a certain cachet in the first place. After a backlash spread in--where else?--the blogosphere, the hotel got the message and removed the placards. For now, all parties live in harmony... or "organically and naturally" as the hotel put it.
Before the bouncer--the lobby is guarded by a bouncer come nightfall--takes his post for the evening rush, the daytime crowd packs up and heads home, just like those in the surrounding high rises crowding the neighborhood. The best part for a commuter? No nagging boss screaming from down the hall, telling him he can't leave until he finishes those TPS reports. There's only the Talking Heads softly singing in the background, "Guess that this must be the place."