Schrager’s decision came even though hotels have so far been exempt from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide edict requiring proof of vaccination for everyone attending or working inside restaurants, gyms, theaters and other indoor event spaces. While hotels mostly feature guests staying in individual rooms, many properties offer town square-like lobbies, restaurants, bars, as well as gyms and event spaces.
Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York City, confirmed that Schrager was the only hotel owner in the city who has required vaccinations of all guests and workers.
“Nobody else is offering and nobody plans it,” Dandapani said of Schrager’s restriction. “Hotels have a sub-section of customers who don’t like the idea.”
City officials will discuss whether to extend the city’s current vaccine mandate to hotels in a telephone conference Monday, Dandapani said. Hotel owners don’t want to be held liable if guests present false vaccine certificates at check-in, he said.
The 367-room Public Hotel near the Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, opened in 2017 and closed during the height of the pandemic to undergo renovation and reopen in June. It features bars on its roof top and lobby, three restaurants and space for private parties and business meetings and a 100-seat theater/screening room.
“We already have 80% of our staff vaccinated, which is consistent with the area, and we haven’t gotten any push back yet,” Schrager said in an interview. The most important issue, he said, was the public health and potentially life-saving benefit to getting as many people vaccinated as possible.
“It’s regrettable that the whole issue has been politicized by people who are anti-vaccination,” he said.
The city’s hotel industry is struggling to regain the prosperity it enjoyed before the pandemic when New York was the top tourist destination in the U.S., attracting more than 60 million visitors a year. The city’s hotels, which averaged a summer occupancy rate of about 90% in 2018 and 2019, were about 63% full in June, with an actual room-use rate of 50% when taking into account scores of closed hotels containing hundreds of rooms, according to CoStar, a real estate data analytics company.