Hard Rock finds a New York groove

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A rendering of the hotel, which will be on West 48th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
A rendering of the hotel, which will be on West 48th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

The stretch of West 48th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues was once known as Manhattan's Music Row, where rock stars and other musicians shopped for the latest musical instruments. In 1958, for instance, Buddy Holly purchased a Fender Stratocaster from Manny's Music; about a decade later, Jimi Hendrix would do the same.

Manny's closed in 2009, and other iconic instrument shops, such as Rudy's and Sam Ash, would shutter their 48th Street locations in the years that followed. But Hard Rock is hoping to breathe new life into the area's rock cred with the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel New York in spring 2019.

"When thinking of entering the New York City market, we could not think of a better location than Times Square, whose electric energy and vibrant culture aligns perfectly with the Hard Rock Hotels brand," according to a statement from Hard Rock International. "Additionally, when considering Hard Rock's global fan base, we sought to establish the first Hard Rock Hotel in New York in an area with heavy foot traffic that appeals to travelers from around the world."

The reception desk from MTV’s original studio will be displayed in the Hard Rock Hotel New York when it opens in 2019.
The reception desk from MTV’s original studio will be displayed in the Hard Rock Hotel New York when it opens in 2019.

The 445-room newbuild will feature a "rooftop oasis" offering DJ sets and other performances as well as an "upscale underground speakeasy" that "will capture the essence of New York City's music subculture," according to a statement from Hard Rock announcing the project. The lobby level will feature a bar as well as a Hard Rock Cafe and lounge.

Guests will be able to channel their inner Buddy or Jimi via the brand's Sound of Your Stay program, with complimentary use of a Fender guitar during their stay.

Other facilities will include a Rock Spa "offering modernized, music-infused Swedish massage practices and treatments" and a Rock Shop selling the brand's trademark T-shirts and other merchandise.

Another trademark of the Hard Rock brand, rock star memorabilia, "will be carefully selected with a focus on contemporary artists who call New York home as well as iconic musicians and pivotal moments in history that have shaped the city's undisputed musical legacy," according to the statement.

Memorabilia and 'milestones'

Jerry Fraize, director of memorabilia for Hard Rock International, said the hotel's final design will dictate the way the memorabilia is presented.

"What we would want to do is go through the different milestones of New York City; that would be one way to look at it," Fraize said. "We could start back with the coffeehouses and [Bob] Dylan and then we can move through history referencing those different decades as a starting point."

Certain to be a focal point of any '80s-themed display is a recent addition to Hard Rock's massive memorabilia cache: a reception desk from MTV's original studios on West 57th Street. Hard Rock has confirmed that the L-shaped desk, made of wood and covered in poured black rubber, will reside at the New York hotel.

Jerry Fraize
Jerry Fraize

In fact, given the city's prominence in popular music over the decades, Hard Rock's dilemma in curating a memorabilia collection isn't a dearth of items but rather putting together a collection that adequately represents the various musical genres the city is known for.

"You might think that it's easy when you go into a market like New York, where so many things have happened," Fraize said. "But it actually becomes a little difficult because you're going to leave someone out, although you want to be able to represent everyone to tell the complete story."

Fraize noted particular challenges finding artifacts from a musical movement birthed in the Bronx in the 1970s. "Hip-hop has been one of those challenging genres to collect, actually; there haven't been a lot of things available on the market," he said. But a year ago, he added, "I was able to get some really great historic hip-hop pieces, from the beginning of how it started. That's one of the things we're really excited about."

On the other hand, "A lot of the rock items we're thinking about using we've had in the collection for a long time. … We're lucky enough to have been in this business [long enough] to have amassed some of these pieces."

Hard Rock International currently comprises 168 cafes, 23 hotels and 11 casinos in 71 countries. Visit www.hardrockhotels.com.

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