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by Becky Sue Epstein
All things “Yo” come to Manhattan this June with the opening of New York City‘s first Yotel, just off Times Square. Founded by English business partners Simon Woodroffe and Gerard Greene in 2007, Yotel specializes in small, budget-priced rooms that have previously only been seen in European airports like London‘s Heathrow and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Inspired by Japanese capsule-style accommodations, Yotel has in the past been criticized for its cramped quarters and often noisy corridors. Given the quirky chain’s less-than-stellar reputation, I was expecting the worst when I went to a pre-opening reception for Yotel’s NYC outpost. Cringing, I entered the giant building a few blocks west of Port Authority. Despite the polite black-clad hosts, it was pretty stark, and made more so by a demonstration of Yobot, the large machine that grabs and stores luggage, on view behind a giant plate glass window which made it seem like we were in a factory.
However, up on the fourth floor, the space was more welcoming. First, there were more people, and second there was food — always a draw for me. This floor has several lounge, bar and restaurant areas, with various seating options, in an open, mid-century modern/Asian setting. Well-known chef Richard Sandoval (of the Zengo restaurant empire) offers fusion cuisine that includes European and New World, with a touch of Asian. Asia also influences the design of the items in the lobby shop kiosk floating near the elevators.