NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The famed Plaza Hotel, a New York City icon, officially reopens after a lengthy coronavirus pandemic-related shutdown on Thursday, welcoming back guests for the first time in more than a year.
The landmark property at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South offered a tour Wednesday of the safety measures put into place, as it prepares for patrons to fill the hotel's exquisitely decorated guestrooms and suites.
The rooms have been empty since March 28, 2020. The pandemic was the first time the hotel has been forced to close.
"There were wars, all sorts of things have happened since 1907, but nothing closed the Plaza before," said managing director George Cozonis.
But Cozonis said COVID was a different beast. He optimistically kept the reservation book open last spring, but the phones stopped ringing.
"We didn't really close the hotel, it closed because the market closed it really," Cozonis said.
Ninety-five percent of the staff was out of work. A handful stayed on to keep things running. They cleaned each and every room and got ready for the day they knew would eventually arrive.
On the eve of the comeback, large floral arrangements now mark tables in the iconic Palm Court that will now be used to help with social distancing.
And instead of large galas, for now, the Plaza expects to see smaller, more intimate gatherings.
The plan is to gradually get up to speed. Right now, about 20% of the rooms are booked, but by the fall or winter, the goal is 100%.
"By December it's our prime season because everyone wants to spend Christmas at the Plaza, I think things will be back to where it used to be," Cozonis said.
With 282 distinctive accommodations -- including the Eloise themed suite, the palatial Royal Suite overlooking Fifth Avenue, and the Fitzgerald Suite designed by costume designer Catherine Martin -- the Plaza has inspired books, starred in countless films, welcomed dignitaries from around the world, rolled out the red carpet for Broadway and Hollywood stars, and hosted milestone celebrations since 1907.
With a reservation of any of the hotel's 29 Legacy Suites, which feature Alexandra Champalimaud interiors and offer views of Fifth Avenue or Central Park, guests will receive arrival and departure transportation up to 60 miles from the hotel.
Private dining will be available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and reimagined entertaining menus will allow guests to celebrate proposals, engagements, and anniversaries in style.
"We look forward to the honor of hosting the hotel's loyal guests who return year after year," Cozonis said. "As well as the privilege of introducing the Plaza to a new generation of luxury travelers."
Health and safety of guests and employees will remain a priority, and Cozonis says no expense has been spared to ensure that travelers will feel at home at the Plaza.
Pre-arrival programs will allow guests the option of contactless check-ins, while in-suite COVID testing will be available for travelers heading off to their next destination.
There will also be an even higher standards of housekeeping service.
For more details on the steps the Plaza is taking to safeguard guests and employees, visit AllSafeAndWell.com.
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