NYC’s landmarked Roosevelt Hotel will close after 96 years due to pandemic

Posted On Tue, October 13, 2020 By

Posted On Tue, October 13, 2020 By In City Living, Hotels, Midtown East

Photo by Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons

When the Roosevelt Hotel opened on East 45th Street in 1924, it was connected to Grand Central via an underground tunnel, signaling its prominence among New York’s Jazz Age society. But nearly 100 years later, the Midtown hotel will shut it doors for good on October 31. As CNN first reported, owner Pakistan International Airlines said in a statement that the decision stems from “the current, unprecedented environment and the continued uncertain impact from COVID-19.”

The Roosevelt Hotel was named for President Theodore Roosevelt, and it was designed by esteemed Beaux-Arts architect George Post. In addition to its Grand Central connection and large footprint (there are just over 1,000 rooms), the hotel was the site of many historic moments in society.

In 1929, Guy Lombardo became the bandleader for the hotel’s Roosevelt Grill, where his group the Royal Canadians would perform. For 30 years, they held a New Year’s Eve radio broadcast, during which they were credited with mainstreaming the song “Auld Lang Syne.” And when Lombardo took his band to Long Island for the summers, Lawrence Welk stepped in and ultimately launched his career.

From 1943 to 1955, Governor Thomas Dewey used suite 1527 as his official city home and office. When he unsuccessfully ran against Harry Truman for president in 1948, the suite served as his election headquarters. The Roosevelt Hotel has also been featured in more than a dozen films including Wall Street, Malcolm X, Maid in Manhattan, and The Irishman.

But sadly, all this history was not enough to keep the hotel afloat. Pakistan International Airlines originally furloughed many of the hotel’s roughly 500 employees back in March, but this past Friday, they notified them all of the October 31 closure. “The iconic hotel, along with most of New York City, has experienced very low demand and as a result the hotel will cease operations before the end of the year. There are currently no plans for the building beyond the scheduled closing.”

The Roosevelt is not alone. Other New York City hotels to recently announce their closures include the Times Square Hilton, the Courtyard by Marriott in Herald Square, the Omni Berkshire Place in Midtown, and the W Hotel. A September 21 New York Times story reported that, in NYC, “more than 25,000 hotel employees have been out of work for more than six months.” And with Broadway announcing last week that it would remain dark until at least the end of May, things do not look optimistic without government assistance. Vijay Dandapani, the president of the Hotel Association of New York City, told the Times that in the late summer, only about seven percent of the city’s 120,000 hotel rooms were filled with traditional guests. “The year’s a washout. It’s a complete washout,” Dandapani said.

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