Just a week after its grand opening, the Hotel 50 Bowery in New York City’s Chinatown just got a serious wake-up call from local residents.
The hotel, opened by the Joie de Vivre hotel group on May 16, is already in damage-control mode after a local leader blasted the company’s for its plans to open an “opium den-themed” lounge called The Green Lady on the building’s basement level.
Karlin Chan, who describes himself as an independent community activist/advocate, wrote a scathing op-ed for Bowery Boogie in which he denounced the hotel group for its culturally insensitivity, going so far as to call the whole thing “bulls---.”
“Is the fabled ‘opium den’ really an appropriate theme for a lounge in their hotel? I say HELL NO,” wrote Chan. “It’s ironic that a hotel honoring the neighborhood would allow a business to highlight a negative stereotype within.”
Wagstaff Worldwide, the PR film hired to handle the hotel's marketing, described the hotel as having “subtle nods to Asian heritage” that reflect “the unique story of the neighborhood itself” in a feature for DNAinfo New York. The company has since addressed the backlash, though they blame it on a poor choice of words.
“The use of the phrase was originally used to describe the portions of décor found at The Green Lady, the hotel’s cellar-level lounge. We’ve since moved away from that language, and communications should have been updated sooner to reflect the ‘30s era Shanghai China theme that has been decided on for the space,” read the statement obtained by Bowery Boogie.
The company did apologize for using that specific “descriptor,” and explained that they had removed it from their communications.
Chef Dale Talde, a Bravo "Top Chef" alum who is one of three restaurateurs in charge of the hotel’s dining options, remarked to Eater that the choice to use the words “opium den” was a “real f—k-up” by Wagstaff and the hotel’s design team, because that was never something they never discussed with him.
“The PR team for the hotel and the design team for the hotel are the ones who did this,” said Talde. “They’re the ones who f---ed up. We never even mentioned ‘opium den’ once in design meetings.”
Despite the setback, the Joie de Vivre hotel group has not announced any delays in the hotel’s Green Lady lounge, which is scheduled to open this summer.
UPDATE: A representative for Wagstaff Worldwide reached out to Fox News with the following statement:
"On behalf of Hotel 50 Bowery, Three Kings Restaurant Group (managing all of Hotel 50 Bowery’s food and beverage outlets), and Wimberly Interiors (our design team), we apologize for the use of the initial description of our hotel’s forthcoming lounge, Green Lady. It was not our intent to upset or offend anyone.
"The vision for Green Lady, located on the cellar level of Hotel 50 Bowery, has always been and still is to create a welcoming, theatre-inspired lounge that pays homage to both the nostalgia of the neighborhood’s past as well as the electric energy of its future."