A balcony at The William Vale. (Photo: John Ambrosio)

Ian Schrager has a heavy heart. Closing his PUBLIC hotel until further notice was an “agonizing decision,” he wrote in an email sent out yesterday, but it had to be done to protect everybody from COVID-19. “[Closing] is against everything I personally believe in,” the hotelier wrote before acknowledging that “it is the only ethical, moral and humane thing to do.” It wasn’t the only hit the founder of Studio 54 took in recent days: An exhibit about the legendary nightclub was suspended when the Brooklyn Museum temporarily closed last week.

With measures to combat novel coronavirus forcing New Yorkers to stay home unless travel is absolutely necessary, trips have been cancelled, and so have hotel reservations. Under the “New York on PAUSE” order that went into effect Sunday night, hotels are among the “essential” businesses that are allowed to stay open. But according to a recent analysis, the hotel business has taken a real hit, and occupancy is now at an alarming 15 percent (or less). 

Boutique hotels on either side of the river — and major chain hotels, like the New York Hilton Midtown — are starting to close due to the pandemic. The Bowery Hotel also closed yesterday. In Brooklyn, many hotels have adopted similar positions. The Pod, Williamsburg is not accepting reservations between March 19 and April 30, while the Wythe Hotel has temporarily turned off the lights. The William Vale in Williamsburg announced on March 15 that it had made efforts to provide for the wellbeing of their customers and staff (they suspended cultural events and enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures). “Staycation” rates were offered to local residents. Now, however, it has temporarily closed.

The Standard, East Village is also temporarily closed (as is its cousin The Standard, High Line). The Standard chain is trying to minimize the damage caused to all those employees who will not be able to work. On GoFundMe, they launched The Standard Stands Together Fund, the proceedings of which will be used entirely in support of the team members who lost their jobs and are “struggling to maintain basic human needs.”

Some hotels are still holding on to the last thread of hope. While the hotel chain CitizenM has closed its UK locations due to government orders, it is keeping open its hotels in Asia and the United States, including its Bowery location, with precautions to limit the spread of the virus. According to their latest statement, they’ve currently adopted a cashless system and are accepting most common credit cards. To prevent people from gathering too closely, CitizenM has replaced the usual buffet breakfast with a “breakfast-in-a-bag” that guests can consume in their rooms, and common areas such as gyms, meeting rooms and rooftop bars are either closed or offer limited availability. 

Hotel 50 Bowery is also remaining open (with a occupancy rate of around 4 percent, according to a source) and they’re taking similar measures to reassure their guests. Per the latest coronavirus-related update from Hyatt (the parent hotel company of Hotel 50 Bowery), they’re waiving change and cancellation fees for reservations between March 14 and April 30 made before March 13, and also for any future reservations booked between March 14 and April 30. Like the other open hotels, they’re providing extra sanitization of all areas. 

Needless to say, nightly rates are also dipping. On Google’s hotel search, rooms near and in the Lower East Side or East Village are listed for as low as $70, with a slight trend between $120 and $130. Rates hardly reach above $200. A room at Sheraton Tribeca is now listed for $89.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, New York’s emergency management commissioner Deanne Criswell said that the city is now considering agreements with empty hotels to use them for hospital beds, for patients who don’t have the virus and are “really minor but need care.” Details regarding the plan of action and the hotels involved are still unclear.

For now, some hoteliers are doing the unprecedented and telling would-be guests to sleep in their own beds. “We will get our lives back,” Schrager’s email assures, “but you must stay safe, stay healthy and stay at home.”