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Brooklyn’s Hotel Le Bleu

April 14, 2008 By: Adrienne Onofri Travel Agent

New York City’s newly hip borough gets its first boutique hotel

Brooklyn has been called a lot of things in its 400-year
history: “the garden spot of the universe” (a tongue-in-cheek nickname still
cited by some old-timers), “city of homes and churches” (to distinguish it from
its corrupted neighbor, Manhattan, at the turn of the century) and, more
recently, “the locus of the world’s hipster activity,” as The New York Times put it in a 2006 real-estate article.

Hotel Le bleu

Hotel Le Bleu's simple elegance extends outdoors.

But “luxury hotel destination” is a new identity for the New York City borough.
Both InterContinental and Sheraton have announced plans to introduce their
boutique lines—Indigo and aloft, respectively—in Brooklyn,
and other small deluxe hotels are planned there as well. But Hotel Le Bleu got there first. The eight-story
hotel, featuring a sleek design and high-tech accoutrements in its 48 guest
rooms, opened last November on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue, about 2½ miles from
the Brooklyn Bridge. Trendy Fifth
in the Park Slope neighborhood, with an
assortment of restaurants and boutiques, is just a block away.

Designed by Andres Escobar, Hotel Le Bleu features 30 rooms
with king-size beds and 18 with two doubles. “What you find in these rooms is
actually a little bit ahead of the curve,” says General Manager Robert Gaeta, a
hotel industry veteran previously associated with such Manhattan
properties as The New Yorker, the Wellington
and the Sheraton New York. “You find a lot of features in these rooms that
people haven’t even incorporated into their homes yet. Usually it’s the other
way around: Your house has nicer stuff than the hotel does.”

Luxury and Harmony
Every room at Le Bleu contains a 42-inch plasma TV with DVD
player and Bose surround-sound, Internet ports at the desk and bedside, iPod
dock in the clock radio and a cordless telephone. The ergonomic beds have
custom-made mattresses, goose-down duvets and 300-thread-count Egyptian linens.
Bathrobes provided for guests feel like a chenille/cashmere blend and are from
a brand promoted by Oprah Winfrey as one of her “Favorite Things.” Guest rooms
have a chair at the desk, but no easy chair.

Le Bleu’s rooms feature the “open bathroom” that’s been
popularized by boutique hotels: The toilet is behind a sliding frosted-glass
door, but there’s no door between the bedroom and the sink area. The oversized
shower stall has a rain showerhead and is separated from the bedroom only by
its glass walls, though guests can close a curtain around the stall. Bathroom
fixtures are by Grohe, and the toiletries— flaxseed soap, quinoa shampoo,
amaranth conditioner, etc.— are from the Davies Gate botanical line. Also
typical of boutique hotels, Le Bleu rooms have a very white color scheme (with
blue accents, of course).

All but nine guest rooms have their own balcony.
Even-numbered rooms face Manhattan, with the
Statue of Liberty and Financial District skyscrapers visible across a
semi-industrial part of Brooklyn that includes the harbor and the Gowanus Canal. Odd-numbered rooms look south and
east over Brooklyn. The borough’s church
spires are visible from almost all rooms, and from the balconies there is a
good view of Brooklyn’s tallest building: the
512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank clocktower (built in 1929). The hotel’s
best room, according to Gaeta, is #708—the
highest unit with a balcony and Manhattan

While the hotel currently has no public space other than a
small lobby, a restaurant named Vue will be opening on the top floor sometime
this spring, with a rooftop bar due to open shortly afterward. Both are
expected to draw local customers as well as hotel guests. The restaurant will
be open for lunch and dinner and have a Continental menu. Gaeta says an undulating “Frank Gehry-type
ceiling” is part of its design plan, as is an outdoor seating section on the
balcony. The rooftop lounge will feature a canopy and illumination and views of two states and four boroughs.


In the Details...
Because the hotel couldn’t offer an onsite restaurant upon
its opening, it has been providing a complimentary breakfast buffet (including
yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit, bagels and other baked goods) for guests, which
may continue even after the restaurant debuts. “It’s kind of hard to get rid of
something that repeat guests might be expecting,” Gaeta says. For now, breakfast is served in a
small room off the lobby with no seating (if breakfast is still offered after
the restaurant opens, it will be moved to the roof).

Additional amenities found in every guest room at Le Bleu
include a mini refrigerator with complimentary bottled water, slippers, iron
and ironing board, canvas laundry bag, a safe and current local magazines. The
TV offers digital channels and pay-per-view movies, and a daily newspaper is
delivered to every guest room in a cloth satchel. Numi organic tea and Wolfgang
Puck coffee are provided free for the in-room coffee maker, and room service is
available from 6 a.m. to midnight from a local diner. Guests have free WiFi and
Ethernet connections in their rooms. Business services, such as faxing and
photocopying, are available round the clock. The hotel is smoke-free, and pets
are not allowed.

Le Bleu has an onsite lot with free parking—always a
valuable bonus in New York City—and
a couple of picnic tables and chairs right outside the lobby. Hotel guests can
use two different health clubs within walking distance (for $15 a day), and
they receive a discount on treatments at the Body by Brooklyn
spa, which is in another neighborhood a few miles from Le Bleu. The hotel’s
concierge will make restaurant and spa reservations, book theater tickets,
arrange for car service and fulfill other requests; according to hotel
literature, “Ask, and consider it done” is the hotel’s motto.

Hotel Le bleu room

Blue at Le Bleu: Accents create a soothing ambiance.

Style and Value
Owned by Globiwest Hospitality Group, Le Bleu is the first
property in what may become a brand. Gaeta
told Travel Agent that the name and
concept have been trademarked and that two other hotels are “on the drawing
board.” He says, “The image is modern, the service, the
boutique style, the limited number of rooms, which allows for a greater
guest-to-employee ratio.” About 30 people work at Le Bleu, which means there’s
approximately one employee for every three guests at peak capacity.

Rack rates upward of $300 a night were being quoted for
Hotel Le Bleu when it opened, though agents have been able to book rooms for
half that through its website in its first season. Averaging some 320 square
feet, the Le Bleu accommodations are larger than many Manhattan hotel rooms. “You’re going to pay
$500 for this room in Manhattan, easily,” says Gaeta, who quoted $280 as
the lead rack rate. The property can be booked through all GDS.

Now, just how conveniently located is Le Bleu? This is
important to know, since clients may be unfamiliar with Brooklyn,
and the hotel’s promotional material can be misleading. The website, for
example, says it’s “minutes away from Manhattan’s
exciting sights, shopping, theaters and nightlife.” The hotel is five blocks
from a subway station, and from there it would take 30-45 minutes to reach Times Square. Places in Lower Manhattan, like Wall Street
and Greenwich Village, are a shorter trip.

Another consideration is the hotel’s neighborhood, which is
something of a mixed bag. Fourth
is the border between yuppie Park
Slope and just-starting-to-gentrify Gowanus. Fifth and Seventh Avenues in Park
Slope have many restaurants, bars and shops. On the Gowanus side, surroundings
are more industrial (and more neglected), though across the street from the
hotel is one of Brooklyn’s many new upscale
condominium developments. Le Bleu is just a couple of blocks from the historic
Old Stone House (a battle site in the Revolutionary War, with a small museum
inside) and the alterna-performance space known as the Brooklyn Lyceum. Prospect Park,
a beautiful 500-plus-acre expanse, is in walking distance, and the Brooklyn Museum
and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are a subway ride away.
Other prime Brooklyn destinations, like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn Heights, are easily accessible from the
hotel. Information on many Brooklyn and Manhattan
attractions is in the in-room guest directory, which also includes a guide to
more than 50 local restaurants.

Agents can contact the general manager directly at [email protected], or call the
hotel at 866-427-6073 or 718-625-1500.


Le Bleu’s Sister Hotel in Brooklyn

Hotel Le Bleu is owned by Globiwest Hospitality Group, a
Southern California-based company that owns/operates more than 20 chain hotels
in about a half dozen states. Globiwest also opened the upscale Hotel Le Jolie in Brooklyn last
winter in the popular neighborhood of Williamsburg, which is packed with
restaurants, coffeehouses, bars, art galleries and performance spaces—but set
slightly off the heart of the action.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about Hotel Le Jolie’s
location is that it practically abuts the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE):
Coming from the subway station three blocks away, you actually walk under the
highway before you reach the hotel. But that subway is just two stops from Manhattan and can get
clients to midtown or the Financial District in less than half an hour. It’s
about a third of a mile walk from the hotel to Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg’s
happening main street.

Even-numbered guest rooms of Hotel Le Jolie look down on the
BQE, though the rest of their Brooklyn view is
nicer. The odd-numbered rooms on the top four floors, meanwhile, have
million-dollar views (hardly an exaggeration, given New
York City
real estate prices): Guests can see the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building
from their beds! Along with the Manhattan
skyline, the Queensboro Bridge and the onion
domes of a nearby Russian Orthodox church add to the the view.

There’s a total of 16 Elite King or Queen With View rooms on
the fourth through seventh floors. The other 16 rooms on those floors, plus 14
more on the first through third stories, are Superior Queen or Two Twin. The
remaining eight rooms—which include two below street level, with small
windows—are classified as Elite King With Jacuzzi or Superior King or Queen.
All rooms are similar in size; the label Elite is applied to rooms with a view
or Jacuzzi (Deluxe sometimes replaces Superior).
Rooms are decorated in earth tones, with all-black furniture.

All of Le Jolie’s rooms contain the same amenities, which
include 42-inch plasma TVs with digital channels, DVD players and pay-per-view
movies; iPod docks; mini fridges with free bottled water; ergonomic bedding,
goose-down comforters and 250-count linens; Bath Bloomers Tangerine Yin Yang
toiletries; and coffeemakers with complimentary coffee and tea. There is free
parking in the hotel’s lot and a municipal lot across the street, and guests
can fax, photocopy and use the computer in the onsite business center at no

Rates run from around $169 to $245 per night. The hotel will
provide an air mattress in Superior Two Twin rooms for triple occupancy at no
additional cost. All rates include a cold breakfast buffet, served in a small
dining room. Le Jolie does not have a restaurant, but room service from several
local restaurants is available at most hours. One of New York City’s legendary Italian
restaurants, Bamonte’s, is right next door.

While the Le Jolie neighborhood is not unsafe, the front
desk is behind glass, and a security guard is stationed in the lobby from 7
p.m. to 7 a.m. On Meeker Avenue,
the hotel sits between a vacant gas station and an industrial building, but
surrounding streets are largely residential. While its location may not appeal
to top-line or city-phobic clients, Hotel Le Jolie is neither too far removed
nor too risky for people doing business in Manhattan or vacationers who’d like to curb
their spending on accommodations. Within the three blocks between the hotel and
subway, there are about half a dozen eateries, a 24-hour diner, a couple of
groceries, a beauty salon and a bakery/café. Contact the hotel at 718-625-2100
or 866-526-4097.


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