Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Chelsea

I wrote a "Slant" a.k.a. op/ed piece for this week's Philadelphia City Paper about Atlantic City, using The Chelsea, a new boutique hotel, as the hinge for my opinion. You can read that op/ed here.

I want The Chelsea to succeed. I think it can succeed -- Lord knows I love Congress Hall in Cape May, which was renovated by the same group.

And yet........I have my doubts.

You can read about most of them in the op/ed. It's not a slight to Curtis Bashaw and The Chelsea team, but more a concern about the state of the city in a spiraling economy.

Then there's The Chelsea itself. I stayed there Tuesday night, and it was cooler than I thought it would be. They did such a good job making the whole place retro, and that's my thing. I like going to a hotel that doesn't have a casino. I like not having to walk through smoke to get to my room.

And yet........I don't think the building is ready for customers. They're already behind schedule but decided to open up anyway without the bars, restaurants, or spas being ready. The rooms didn't have any information about the hotel -- nothing about room service, which I really wanted this morning. The elevators were slow, and even then, contractors were more than ready to kvetch about the construction process to staying guests (many of whom were grumpy). I checked in right after a couple checked out and asked for a credit or partial refund.

These are the growing pains of a new hotel, but the place is so frantic and so unfinished that I wish they'd waited another two weeks or even month to open. Yes, they would have lost the cusp of the summer season, and, yes, they would have lost the money from everyone who's stayed so far (they were sold out), but I bet a lot of people who stayed last night will not come back.

It's a fun place, and I think it will do well, but it's just a bit too early.

Here's some pictures. They really did a wonderful job. I just wish they'd held back a few weeks to fling open the front doors.

(If you are going to stay at The Chelsea, I hear the first restaurant will open Thursday night, and I'm going to swing by on Saturday night after my book signing in Avalon 6-8pm at Pale Moon Boutique. Of course I will report back...)

One of my favorite parts...private beach with cabana boy service:

The lobby:

A room. The details in the furniture and decor really make it a swell room. Couldn't you see a Mad Men-esque photo shoot here?

Another one of those little touches that make the difference: look at everything in this kit. It makes up, in part, for not having a hotel gift shop or bar. The retro candies! The quality gin! You can even buy yourself an "intimacy kit," which has exactly what you think it would have:

This is part of "The 5th Floor," what will be the nightlife center. Again, looks super cool and I can't wait to try it:

And outdoor couches by the pool:

So my take? It's a beautiful, fun renovation of what used to be two so so hotels. If I were a magazine art director, I'd be setting up fashion shoots there pronto. But if you're going to go, wait a month. It should be in full swing this fall.

Since there was no wining and dining at The Chelsea last night, my evening involved drinks at the Hilton's Dizzy Dolphin (it's a ship! with a bar!) followed by an immaculate dinner at the Knife & Fork Inn -- which could explain why I craved room service and possibly a Bloody Mary this morning. Ah, well. Bagel and coffee from Adam Good Deli at the Tropicana was probably a healthier bet.

I have lots of pictures from today's hermit crab beauty pageant...will post tomorrow.

Digg this


Leah Ingram said...


I would be willing to give this hotel a try. My husband is dying to try his hand at the poker tables in Atlantic City, and I'd like to make a weekend of it with the kids. However, like you, I don't want to have to walk through a smoky section to get anywhere in a hotel (been there, done that). This hotel sounds like the perfect solution. He could hoof it to the casinos, and we can head to the beach. Also, The Chelsea reminds me of the retro Kimpton hotel where I stayed a few years ago in Washington, D.C. Great post. Great op-ed.


Jen A. Miller said...

Leah -

Very true. I saw a lot more families staying here than at other casino/hotels. Plus, kids can use the hotel pool. This might sound like a silly thing to say, but the under 21 crowd is not allowed at some casino/hotel pools.

It's also within close walking distance of both the Tropicana and the Atlantic City Hilton for your husband to give the poker tables a shot.

Most people don't believe me when I say this, but there is a lot of kids to do to Atlantic City. Sounds like that'll be a future blog post...