Hotelier Ian Schrager’s Obsession

It is not often in life, if ever, that you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to be involved in something really special, and yet have a second chance to rethink, refine and improve upon what was previously done. This unprecedented period of madness has given Ian Schrager just that…. a second chance.

PUBLIC, what Schrager considers his most important idea to date, is a hotel that exudes impeccable taste and offers great style, great fun, great service, a new kind of luxury and affordability to everyone who wants it. For the past year, Schrager has re-imagined and re-thought all amenities and offerings at PUBLIC in a pursuit of excellence, and on his quest to do a hotel as close to perfection as possible.

“I’m on a mission to create a masterpiece. I may never get there, but I’ll die trying,” says Schrager.

When PUBLIC premiered in 2017, its new, radical idea was LUXURY FOR ALL. Schrager is taking advantage of this second chance to clarify and demystify the idea—so people will understand it—and what he is trying to accomplish.

Schrager’s first hotel, Morgans, created with his late partner and friend Steve Rubell, was a profound game changer. That and Royalton spawned a new genre of hotel— “the lifestyle hotel/boutique hotel”—and every hotel since then has been built on that foundation. There are now thousands of versions of them in virtually every city of the world. 

Simply put, their intention was to do an entirely new kind of hotel. One for their generation that reflected their lifestyle, their popular culture, tastes and the spirit of the times—and one that was modern. It was not intended for previous generations, because things had changed, as they always do.

woman in black shirt leaning on brown wooden table

In the exact same way, PUBLIC and LUXURY FOR ALL is a new idea for a new age. It is intended to reflect a new time, a new reality, and a new way that people live. If you come to PUBLIC expecting the traditional luxury that your parents or grandparents expected, you will not find it here. The old idea of luxury needed an update…a revision to reflect what people actually want today.

Everything changes…times change and people change. Change is the only constant in life. Luxury as we once knew it has also changed, and will continue to change. The notion of luxury simply cannot be static and the same as it was in the past. It has to stay in step with the way modern people live. You cannot have an analog definition of luxury in a digital world.  

The old and outdated idea of luxury was defined by how rich you were, where you lived, what car your drove and what fashion brands you wore. Luxury is no longer about those irrelevant and meaningless status symbols, material possessions or how much something costs. It’s not merely a business classification for marketers to sell to you. 

LUXURY IS HUMANITY. Luxury is now accessible to everyone who wants it…and it should be. It’s egalitarian and democratized. Luxury today is about how something makes you feel, it’s emotional and visceral, and about comfort, ease, convenience as well as being freed from distractions and hassles and allowing more free time to do the things you really care about.  It’s the ULTIMATE LUXURY…the FREEDOM OF TIME. 

Absolute freedom, to me, is contentment, emotional wellbeing, feeling good, protected and looked out for. You can connect the dots all the way from Studio 54 to PUBLIC—that freedom to be yourself and be happy and feeling good and protected that we sought at Studio 54, which I feel was one of the main reasons for its success—is the same that we seek at PUBLIC,” says Schrager.

skyline photo of empire state building in new york city

Schrager realized that there are things that people just don’t need or want anymore at a hotel—services and amenities that are pointless, no longer matter and are out of step with today.  Modern people have simply moved on. Travelers today want a really comfortable bed and a great night’s sleep and don’t really care anymore about the pretentious idea of sheet thread count.  Similarly, they want great coffee, but delivered fast and hot, not in fine bone china or a sterling silver pot and served by someone wearing white gloves.

LUXURY FOR ALL is built on 4 key pillars—modern, re-thought and re-edited service, sophisticated style, a unique, fun and elevated experience that makes your heartbeat faster and value. Schrager sought to make this new notion of luxury accessible and affordable to everyone who wants it—not only rich people. It’s the right thing to do and so well suited for the times and the future.

Two imperatives to ensure a successful execution of LUXURY FOR ALL was rethinking the entire approach to service and the use of technology. At PUBLIC, technology is smart, intuitive, effortless, user friendly, well thought out and hassle free. It’s not technology for the sake of it. 

“Our approach to technology was similar to Steve Job’s approach. We started with the need and what made things easier, quicker, cheaper and more convenient and then sought out the technology rather, than starting with the technology and searching for a use which usually turns out to be useless, pointless and pretentious—like gratuitous interactive display boards in a lobby,” says Schrager.

Every interaction was considered for ease, breakneck speed, efficiency and effectiveness. Check-in and check-out are meant to be completely invisible and the Arrival/Departure experience seamless and holistic. You can get up to your room using your mobile device just as quickly as you can get up to your home or office…which, to PUBLIC, is the ideal and the future.

There is no longer a need to make small talk or sit and have a glass of Champagne while being checked-in or checked-out. People don’t want that anymore. They want to get up to their room as fast as possible and not stop by a front desk. There is ample opportunity for personal contact with team members in countless more important ways and times. Other technology offerings which make a stay effortless include a state-of-the-art app, live chat, web chat, mobile key and key sharing and major enhancements to the iPad check-in technology.

PUBLIC SERVICE, a brand new department, was created to solely support and help guests when they need it. Service will be humanizing, friendly, caring, emotional, warm and empathetic, with ferocious follow through. The focus was on universally appealing service such as being treated genuinely. It won’t be obsequious service, but rather that which is attentive, unscripted and tailored for the individual—because service is not ‘one-size-fits-all’. 

happy woman showing wooden signboard saying open
Photo by Tim Douglas on

“We created another new idea for the hotel called “PUBLIC SERVICE”. I wanted to ensure that when you came to the hotel and throughout  your stay, you felt as if you were staying at your friend’s or family’s house who really cared about you and tried to be a gracious host—you felt good, cared for, dignified and at home. It’s personalized comfort. We are genuinely concerned about looking after you. The inspiration came from the tech companies, such as Amazon and Apple, and how they have mastered customer service and providing support and guidance when needed in an instant. At PUBLIC, like them, we are customer and product obsessed,” says Schrager.

Schrager rethought everything at PUBLIC and has introduced many new initiatives and offerings. The popular oasis Chrystie Park has been thoughtfully redone with new landscaping by Madison Cox. This lush, verdant garden park in the city with its plentiful variety of trees, flowers, plants and grasses will now be available for dining, drinking, lawn parties, picnics, sculpture installations and private events. It’s PUBLIC’s own micro version of Central Park in downtown New York City.