When I was first invited out to see the new Hotel BPM in Brooklyn, I was intrigued. It's been selected as a TripAdvisor GreenLeader and--more interestingly--is obviously into the music scene. (BPM stands for beats per minute.) I love music, and I love sustainability, so the two combined into one hotel--plus a swank website and logo--seemed like a must for a visit. But why, I wondered, had I never heard of this hotel before?
Hotel BPM says it is conveniently located to Barclay's center, which is true in a sense--it's one express stop away from the Atlantic Avenue stop on the N, which pretty much goes everywhere a clueless tourist could want to go in NYC. It takes about 20 minutes to get from BPM to SoHo, 25-30 to get to Union Square and 35 to get to Time Square.
But in another sense, it's in the boondocks. When I popped out of the subway on 36th Street, I thought, "Hmm, this looks like it's near SRB," a club randomly located in Brooklyn (probably to avoid noise complaints) that often hosts hot DJ acts. That would certainly make sense. But no, SRB is located on a similarly low-income street 20 blocks north.
What I'm trying to say is that there is nothing worth doing around in Hotel BPM's 'hood. Like, nothing. Greenwood Cemetery is nearby, and I hear that is pleasant for New Yorkers starved for greenery and quiet. But most passable bars and restaurants start in a trickle 15 blocks north.
I walked a couple blocks north, past De An's Pork Products and Money Gram, and turned down 33rd. Hotel BPM, with its electric green and black facade, stood out among the garages. (Makes sense, since a garage was knocked down to build it.) As I walked in, a musical act was loading up their van to leave. The lobby is small but clean and bright, with Top 40 music playing from Bose speakers flush in the ceiling, a leather couch accessorized with speaker pillows and swag for sale by the counter. Want a Hotel BMP shirt? Grab it here.
I guess now would be a good time to point out that Hotel BPM is the brainchild of DJ BIJAL, a DJ who, after conquering clubs and private parties and satellite radio, was trying to figure out what to do next. The obvious choice was a hotel.
Wait, what? Yes, a hotel. Hotel BPM is what happens when a DJ builds a mansion, tricks it out to his standards, and invites strangers to stay with him. Which, depending on who you are, is either awesome, bizarre or annoying. You pretty much get what you would expect from a very sincere and enthusiastic guy (who I suspect has some money to throw around on this project) who is not an experienced hotel manager. All the reviews say the service is fabulous--employees are committed to making sure you have a good time. But there are some kinks to be worked out.
Everywhere you are hit over the head with references to electronic music--the turntable artwork in every bedroom, electric green color theme, the logo reminiscent of mixer levels, boombox pillows, the stylized blog devoted to block parties and whatever is going on at Barclay's, the fact that you get a pair of I ♥ BIJAL sunglasses upon check-in, and even the Donut Shop coffee in the rooms, which references an album by J.Dilla, all say, "Hi! We like music here. Hang out with us! It'll be great!" The lobby even used to have the DJ booth right by the door when you walked in before they decided to move it to the lounge after six months. "We want to make it an experience--we want to be a memorable part of their trip," he says.
There are upsides to this slavish music devotion. When you make a reservation, you have the option of requesting music to play in the lobby and lounge. There are blackout shades in the bedrooms and you can pay $35 extra to check out at 2 p.m.--crucial if you were out until 6 a.m. The bedrooms are hooked up with sound systems--a custom Bluetooth Tivoli in the deluxe rooms and an iHome in the regular rooms--that pipes music from a bluetooth speaker into the bathroom. Or you can listen to music piped up from whatever DJ is spinning downstairs in the lounge. Plus, other nice touches, like a nice porcelain tile bathroom with light filtering through a smoked glass window, a Keurig coffeemaker, custom-designed mattresses by BIJAL which are reportedly fabulously comfortable, fresh and clean bedrooms with white Italian Frette linens and bathrobes, and turndown service with a glass carafe of water. Instead of janky, old Pay-per-View movies, you can log into your Netflix or Hulu account on the TVs.
"I want to offer a very social, fun atmosphere," BIJAL told me. "The cool friend in your group--we want to be that guy." Some things are great ideas, but don't quite make it to the fabulous level. On Friday and Saturday, there's an open bar for guests from 10 to 2 p.m., though it's just beer and wine. They bring in DJs to play as well, though they're current students and recent grads of Scratch DJ Academy, so I have no idea what the quality is like. (There are occasional DJ lessons which BIJAL would like to make a regular thing.) Breakfast is free in the tiny lounge, but it's basic. The biggest complaint from guests is the thin walls, which let through way too much noise, especially when it gets to be party time. (They're in the process of putting in soundproof doors.) And there's a curated playlist going all day, progressing from indie in the morning, to guest requests from 10 to 12, through Top 40 in the afternoon and then to electronic music in the evening. But none of it is underground stuff--every song has to be purchasable on iTunes.
"Every Friday we do a Spotify playlist," BIJAL tells me. "They get royalties from that because we like to support them," he says.
"You know artists hate Spotify, right?" I tell him. He looks confused.
But Is it Green?
Let's get the the original reason I visited: the TripAdvisor green designation. I was eager to see this place, since there are very, very few explicitly sustainable hotels in NYC, surprisingly. I peppered poor BIJAL with questions through the tour.
It seems that Hotel BPM got its certification this spring by implementing a lot of small things throughout the hotel. Tall windows let in lots of light so the overhead lights in the lobby, which are almost all LED, are kept off most of the time. The toilets are dual flush. Instead of sample sized toiletries, there are wall-mounted pumps in the shower with Gilchrist and Soames "Bee-Kind" products which, along with the eco-friendly packaging and formulas, supports honey bee and sustainable pollination research. You can leave a card on the bed to tell them to skip washing your towels and linens that day. Instead of swipe keys, which give out sooner, the locks are RFID. Most impressively, an external AC unit is connected to a thermostat, which is connected to the door. If your room has been left unoccupied for a certain time, the smart thermostat goes back to 73 degrees from wherever you set it.
"As we were building I tried to do things that were a greener way to do it," BIJAL says. Which is very different than building an explicitly green hotel. Like many of the amenities, he's still working on it. There are no recycling bins in the rooms, none of the building materials are sustainable, and the food isn't organic or local, though the snack tray has chocolates from a company down the street.
Who Will Love Hotel BPM
When I ask BIJAL who his competitors are, he's thoughtful. "We're a very unique hotel, it's hard to say who we're similar to," he says. "We share clientele with Thompson and the W. But we also get people who would check into the Holiday."
OK, Hotel BPM isn't the W, nor The Standard, Wythe Hotel, or Ace Hotel, all of which have achieved subtle coolness with exclusive rooftop clubs, amazing DJs, fabulous cocktails and food, and (ahem) central locations.
But maybe that really doesn't matter. First of all, those hotels are expensive, and attract notable creatives from L.A. and around the world. BPM's market is the American visitor who loves EDM music and is pumped to be in New York with their friends to see Beyonce or Phoenix at the Barclay's Center. They're totally impressed that they can slam a free beer while watching a live DJ spin. At night, guests stop in front of the step-and-repeat in the lobby to take pictures before hitting the town. And the amenities are pretty--OK, really--nice for the price. It may be working out some kinks, but it's really clean and neat.
"We get a really wide market, which is really nice," BIJAL says proudly as we stand in the lobby, where at night a large cube by the desk glows green. "You see a hipster couple check in who's in town to see Fallout Boy, then behind them is a family."
So BIJAL is optimistic about the future of Hotel BPM. He says the 76 rooms, which are affordably priced from $139 to $309, are usually sold out on the weekends. He's installing LED lighting in the hallways that will glow green and blue at night, further adding to the clubby atmosphere. And eventually, hopefully, there will be a rooftop to go to.
"It's a learning process, because a lot of things changed as we built," he says. "We haven't been open for a year yet. I pay attention to reviews a lot." For example, he changed the breakfast to full service, hired more waiters to speed up the process and replaced the buffet with more tables, because of complaints about not enough seating.
If all goes well, he wants to expand. And you know what? More power to him. God knows there is a market for neons and EDM.
P.S. If you sign up for his app you'll get free goodies from DJ BIJAL. He wanted me to tell you that.