Two vintage New York hotels regain past splendor
Two architectural ''wedding cakes'' here have just had birthday parties.Skip to next paragraph
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The 75-year-old Plaza Hotel, the 55-year-old the Hotel Inter-Continental New York (formerly the Barclay), and New Yorkers have much to celebrate. And so do the hotels' guests, who come from everywhere - Seattle to Singapore.
Several years ago the 900-room Plaza, on Central Park, and the 800-room Inter-Continental New York, just off Park Avenue at 48th Street, had fallen on undistinguished times. Years of neglect, both structurally and service-wise, had placed both properties on the bottom of the list of praise bestowed on the Big Apple's poshest and most polished hotels.
Now, in the wake of a $35 million renovation program at the Plaza and an only slightly less costly one at the Inter-Continental New York, vive la difference, say guests and hotel critics alike.
But the supreme test of quality may come this spring when Egon Ronay, who is called one of the world's most astute -- and feared -- hotel critics by those in the business, comes here from London. In the summer of 1978 when he last rated the hotels, the Plaza's renovation program had barely begun and the Inter-Continental New York's hadn't started. And both hotels, despite their unusual architectural features and upper-crust reputations, were found somewhat deficient under Mr. Ronay's microscope.
In the Egon Ronay rating system, 100 points is ''perfection'' in accomodations and service. No hotel in the world has ever received a perfect score. In the last rating, the Plaza was awarded 81 points and the Inter-Continental New York 77. Ronay's highest rating ever went to the Ritz Hotel in London, which got 94. He rated the Pierre Hotel tops in New York with 93 on his last visit.
By contrast, the more famous Mobil Travel Guide uses a system of ''stars'' to rate hotels, and in 1981 the Plaza received four stars and the Inter-Continental New York three out of a possible five. Four means ''outstanding -- worth a special trip,'' while three signifies ''excellent.'' Five stars is for ''one of the best in the country.''
How does a hotel qualify for a five star rating?
''It's not just the size of the rooms, or the grandiosness, '' says Guide director Arnold Fury. ''It's real quality; quality of funishings. It's the maintanince level - things that are kept immaculate.'' He also stresses consistent, excellent service. In short, he added, ''Superb everything.''
And ''superb everything'' is exactly what the Intercontinental Hotels Corporation and Westin Hotels, which owns the Plaza, plan for their respective hotel landmarks here. After all, the Inter-Continental New York is now the ''flagship'' of the hotel group, and so, at least unofficially, is the Plaza for the Westin group.
''The Plaza is the leading revenue and profit producer for the company,'' says J. Philip Hughes, the hotel's managing director. Last year, the Plaza's revenues were a record $67 million, up substantially from the previous years.
The profit picture of the Inter-Continental New York was by no means as great at the Plaza's last year. For one thing, ''at any moment in time (in 1981) we had about 35 percent of our rooms out of commission,'' notes Paul Sheeline, Intercontinental's board chairman.