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.
Getting back to my expectations, I had vague notions of sleeping in drawers, or something similarly uncomfortable, when I went upstairs to look at the rooms, which the Yotel staff refers to as “cabins.” They weren’t like that at all. They were compact, but cleverly so: Woodroffe and Greene used airline designers to create the feel of traveling in upper class on a plane — but with 170 square feet of space for a bed and bath in the hotel. Think neat and efficient, not miniature.
I also think of this as an extension of college: you’re in your room, sitting on your bed, watching TV, working on your laptop, and maybe having a drink or a snack using the trays that are tucked into cubbies on both sides of the bed. When you’re tired of being alone, you swing down to the main floor and hang out with other people inside, or check out the various terrace spaces with lounge chairs and hot tubs.
For a more luxurious experience, there are larger rooms, and high rollers can reserve corner suites that are equipped with a kitchen, living room, multiple bedrooms and private terrace party areas.
Yotel opens to the public in mid-June with promotional rates starting around $200. For more information, visit www.yotel.com
You can click on each photo to enlarge.