Refinery Hotel – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC **

Q: What is it? A: A hotel, celebrated in other reviews, that is a tad too ambitious in doubling as a busy bar-scene. And then there’s the famous rooftop bar. And the intoxicated lady in that tight, blue dress.

Refinery Hotel, Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – exterior
Constructed in 1912 and the creation of architect Frederick C. Zobol who designed a neo-gothic façade that became known as the Colony Arcade in the early days of the garment district. It served as a ”tea house” from 1913 after the ground floor was leased to a Mr. Winifred T. McDonald. Since May 2013 it has been a hotel.

Refinery Hotel – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – bedroom
More namedropping: These areas, 197 of them, were designed by Christina Zimmer of Stonehill & Taylor, who also added their touch to hotels like the NoMad, Ace and Crosby Street Hotel. Not a bad design if you’re into a mix of nostalgia and modern stuff. But does it have character? I don’t think so.

Refinery Hotel, Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – bathroom
Here’s where the logo festival continues. The ‘R’ is everywhere. Marble, brass and antique bronze… According to the hotel website they are ”…accents that hark back to the building’s early-19th century life as a home to milliners and hat factories.” I’m glad that it flushed when I pressed the button.

Refinery Hotel, Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – minibar and bucket
The logo-fest continues all over the place. Little messages and one-liners will come flying from just about any corner. Sometimes it’s quite effective. And the minibar wasn’t exactly mini. Bottles were occupying a corner of the writing desk ”designed to resemble an early 1900’s sewing machine”.

Refinery Hotel, Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – corridor
Vintage phones aside, the corridors are used as an exhibition space for local emerging artists. An entire new collection is brought in every 6 months. Charlene Weisler and Ryan V. Brennan were on display when I was around. Guests are also encouraged to buy the artwork.

The feeling when something isn’t right…
It’s probably my own fault. Yes, I arrived after 9 PM. Stupid me. At that time, the lobby was essentially a piano bar with the staff behind the front desk balancing huge glasses of red wine (of course they weren’t drinking themselves!). Velvet rope and bouncers blocked the way to the elevators. The distinct smell of sweaty people and alcohol filled the space together with piano music and a rather loud singer. Was this negative? Probably not if you didn’t have to stay there. I just wanted to close the door behind me and sleep.

I later learned that I entered through Winnie’s Lobby Bar.
Dear management at the Refinery. I have nothing against busy, bustling lobby bars. I just don’t want them to be a mandatory experience when you’re just a hotel guest. If the Refinery want to uphold that sought-after boutiquey feel, their bouncers should be able to distinguish between guests. In my book, the exhausted advertising executive longing for the hotel bed should be treated differently than the clearly buzzed 53-year-old lady in the tight blue dress. Hints: 1) I didn’t hold a huge glass of red wine. 2) It wasn’t me who had severe problems balancing on 7-inch heels in the lobby.

Roomy rooms without character.
The phrase ”industrial chic” has been used by others to describe the Twenties-inspired interior. Can’t but feel that it’s getting a bit tiresome as most of the design tricks have been used in numerous other hotels, stores and bars. Although I was happy to not find any stag heads in the building (maybe I didn’t look hard enough) it felt like if the Ace Hotel suddenly had turned 47. Don’t get me wrong; the room was comfortable alright. But somewhere, while looking for a unique character, it got lost and, well… despite custom designed writing desks and little quirky messages, it actually lacks character.

So who is it for?
It’s probably perfect if you are a few colleagues traveling to NYC together wanting to stay somewhere in the middle of it all. And if the clubhopping years are behind you, so much the better. With the rooftop bar and the busy lobby, you may not even have to leave the hotel. It’s Midtown, 5 minutes from Macy’s and an 8-minute walk away from the Empire State Building. On TripAdvisor it is currently ranked #10 of 448 hotels in New York City. Mr. Guidebook obviously has a different opinion about that ranking, but will soon stay there again to see if first impressions will last.
And if you check in later in the evening, you may wink to the lady in that tight, blue dress. I bet she’s still adding more stains of red wine to the lobby carpet.

Refinery Hotel
63 West 38th Street
New York, NY 10018
United States

+1 646-664-0310

Click here to book the Refinery Hotel through!

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