Chateau Marmont scrubs members-only plan, accepts union

Owner André Balazs planned to replicate the business model at other high-end hotels

André Balazs with Chateau Marmont (Getty, Google Maps)
André Balazs with Chateau Marmont (Getty, Google Maps)

The nearly century-old Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, a popular hotel for celebrities, has scrapped plans to become a members-only club while agreeing to let its workers unionize.

Owner André Balazs, who had fought to keep his workers from unionizing, abandoned his plan to convert to a members-only hotel at 8221 Sunset Boulevard while agreeing to let employees be represented by Unite Here Local 11, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Balazs didn’t explain why he’d moved on from the members-only concept back to walk-ins by the rich and beautiful. A representative noted that travel demand had recently rebounded.

The members-only plan, hatched in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, would have allowed select clientele to buy shares and pay management fees for exclusive access to the historic chateau dining room, personal butlers and luxe grounds and rooms.

Balazs had planned to expand the concept to urban properties in cities like Milan, Paris and Tokyo.

His relationship with Chateau Marmont workers has been troubling. For years, Unite Here has pushed to unionize its workers, and led a call for celebrities to boycott the hotel. That included picketing a star-studded Oscar party at the hotel by rapper Jay-Z.

When the pandemic struck, the 63-room Chateau Marmont abruptly fired most of its workers with no severance pay and only a brief extension of health benefits.

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Then the hotel came under fire for allegedly misusing $1.95 million in funds from a federal Paycheck Protection Program. Laid-off workers marched with giant checks and signs before a U.S. Small Business Administration office saying “My hotel got $1.95 million, what about me?”

Unite Here alleged the hotel didn’t use the funds for payroll, as only a handful of its nearly 250 laid-off workers had returned to their positions. The hotel said it followed the law.

Last year, the Chateau Marmont was sued for racial discrimination by a former employee who claimed management primarily promoted white people to the most coveted positions, while workers of color were stuck in lower-paid, behind-the-scenes jobs. Hotel representatives have declined to comment on the lawsuit, which is pending.

Other workers alleged the Chateau has been a workplace rife with toxic behavior, including neglectful management and unaddressed racial discrimination and sexual misconduct, according to a 2020 expose by the Hollywood Reporter.

The castle-like hotel, built as apartments in 1929 on a hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard, was converted to a hotel two year later. It has been a hideout for actors, musicians and the ultra rich, including Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, Vivien Leigh, James Dean, John Belushi and Lindsay Lohan.

Balazs bought the Chateau Marmont in 1990. He also owns the Mercer Hotel in Lower Manhattan and the Chiltern Firehouse hotel in London. He sold the Standard High Line for $400 million in 2014 and stepped down as chair of the Standard hotels brand in 2017.

— Dana Bartholomew

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The Chateau Marmont (Getty) and protest signs (Unite Here Local 11)
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