A Scruffy Guitar Shop Survives the Chelsea Hotel’s Chic Makeover
The Chelsea Hotel — a once-grand New York City apartment building — was demolished in October 2017 to make way for luxury residential high-rises in the heart of Chelsea, an area known for its wealth and celebrity. But the property’s iconic facade now sits empty and unloved, its dark wood paneling draped in plastic bags. While a nearby bar called the Chiswick Arms took over as a new home for the Chelsea Hotel’s residents, the bar’s owners didn’t exactly go easy on the space. While it’s difficult to imagine the place surviving an upgrade, it has, thanks to its owners, a devoted band of musicians who have transformed the club into a haven for indie rock. In fact, one of the musicians that played there is none other than the legendary Chris Cornell, the frontman for Soundgarden.
When Chelsea Hotel owner David Yee decided to demolish the historic five-story apartment building in 2015, he knew exactly what he wanted to do: he wanted to convert it into a residential, high-rise condo. But he would have had to overcome some serious doubts, because, at the time, he was in the process of selling up his New York City apartments to investors for big sums. He’d already sold the Chelsea, as well as two other Chelsea complexes, to his partners and, according to reports, a private-equity firm for nearly $3 billion. It took only a short time from the time the Chelsea was demolished to the time when other interested parties began to show an interest in it.
The Chelsea Hotel’s first occupant, the restaurant Kringle, didn’t want to let go of its longtime tenant, the iconic piano bar and nightclub The Commodore, which the restaurant had opened on Chelsea’s Park Avenue in 1982. So, Yee and his partner, Mark Haché, stepped in and agreed to take over the space. But the Chelsea Hotel’s iconic façade would have to change: Haché says he knew it needed to be gutted, because it was a building that was too dark and dreary. So, they brought in a new set of