On Monday, the Hard Rock Hotel New York opened at the northeast tip of Times Square, the latest massive hotel brand to open in the area since the beginning of the pandemic.
The newly built slender glass tower opened its doors at 159 W. 48th St., bringing 446 rooms and a new live-event venue to the Theater District. Room rates will start at $475 per night.
Fittingly, the city’s first Hard Rock Hotel and a sister property to the longstanding Hard Rock Cafe on Broadway (there’s another cafe at Yankee Stadium) stands on Music Row, the stretch along 48th Street once packed with recording studios and instrument, sheet music and gear stores that fed the city’s music scene.
As both a brand nod and homage to the location, the event space, dubbed simply the Venue on Music Row, was custom-built to present music, comedy and other live entertainment.
“We looked at dozens of sites around the city and this really is the perfect fit,” Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming, said of the location. “There is the business side of Midtown on one side and Times Square on the other. This is extremely exciting for us.”
The music-influenced Hard Rock brand began in London in the 1980s with the Hard Rock Cafe on Park Lane, and it grew into an international brand with 253 properties.
Along with the venue, the hotel houses RT60 rooftop bar and lounge on the 34th floor.
“Because we were designing a brand-new building, we had the ability to create an amazing indoor-outdoor space with a canopy,” said Allen. “We spent a lot of money on creating the DJ booth and the sound system to create an ultra lounge venue.”
Also on site, NYY Steak continues Hard Rock’s partnership with the New York Yankees, adding a third location — Yankee stadium and Coconut Creek, Florida, house one each — for steak and seafood, plus a switch from music memorabilia to sports.
The brand’s signature breakfast-through-dinner Sessions restaurant and bar on the main level has a three-story atrium, open-air terrace and a grand staircase. Acoustic musical performances are planned there. Constant Grind, a cafe for tea, coffee, pastries and a casual bite, completes the food offerings.
The eye-catching 36-story structure also goes down 80 feet below ground level.
“There’s close to 40 feet ceiling height of usable space. It has a balcony; the whole thing is incredible,” Allen added of the subterranean space, which houses the Venue. “It has an underground, speakeasy type of vibe.”
Guest rooms and suites feature a warm design, with caramel and royal blue highlights, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The Rock Star Suite on the 36th floor is a glam bi-level glass-enclosed penthouse with a 1,600-square-foot terrace and direct access to the rooftop bar.
“This is the highest-level suite,” said Allen. “It is designed to also function as an event space for product launches and that type of thing.”
Brand-wide bells and whistles include Crosley turntables and Fender guitars delivered upon request. But the Hard Rock heart is its notable music memorabilia, the largest private collection in the world, with about 86,000 pieces.
“The Hard Rock of the ’80s and ’90s was more simplistic,” said Allen. “They basically applied memorabilia to the walls. Now it is more a museum-quality presentation, with history and the story behind each piece and the artist.”
At the Hard Rock Hotel New York, large-scale iconic images of Hendrix and Bowie line the walls, and New York’s music scene is honored by touchstones such as Joey Ramone’s leather jacket, Lady Gaga’s silver patent leather boots and handwritten lyrics for John Lennon’s 1972 ode to his adopted home, “New York City.”
“With New York’s important place in musical history, we wanted to create something special,” added Allen. “We always look at geographical location and the artists who worked in the area, and then layer in global acts.”
Allen thinks New Yorkers will enjoy the hotel, particularly the Venue, as much as hotel guests.
“When I walked into the Venue for the first time, it was still raw concrete at that point,” he recalled, “and I always say check your ego at the door, but I was highly confident that we had created a great venue. I just said, ‘We got it!’”