How LA’s Brand New Hotel June Opened During a Pandemic
Playa Del Rey’s newest guesthouse forged ahead with their summer plans, COVID-19 be damned
Who in their right mind would open a hotel during a global pandemic?
That’s the most obvious question to ask after learning that Playa Del Rey’s newest coastal hotel officially began welcoming guests this past June, right in the middle of growing concerns over COVID-19. Though the whole world is certainly dealing with the impact of the pandemic, no sector has been hit harder than the hospitality industry, meaning most hoteliers would shy away from opening a brand new property during a global pandemic. But shy is not the Proper Hotel way.
With locations in creative hubs like Austin, San Francisco and Santa Monica, Proper has already established themselves as the flagship luxury hotel for artistic, elite travelers, and this summer they welcomed a less formal and more accessible (read: affordable) property into the fold with Hotel June. Opening during its namesake month, pandemic panic be damned, the breezy, baja-inspired West Side guesthouse and pool are thriving just the same, with a few necessary but manageable changes.
Since the governor issued a stay home order for Los Angeles back in March, I’ve mostly kept to my own apartment and the few sparsely populated outdoor areas and restaurants meticulous enough to ensure safe distancing from others. But the chance to observe how a hotel adjusted to the new normal during its opening weeks was too good to pass up. During my recent stay, Hotel June offered a fascinating look at how hotels and other hospitality spaces (like restaurants, pools and gyms) can tweak their framework to accommodate the new seriously important requirement of distancing from other people.
Your room is delivered sealed, sanitized and, if you wish, completely undisturbed
First things first, the room itself. After checking in at the front desk, masked and distanced from the staff, I was pleased to discover a sticker certifying sanitation placed over the key-card access to my room. These stickers are placed on all the room doors around the hotel after they’ve been thoroughly sanitized by cleaning staff, ensuring that no one else can access your room before or after this disinfection — it’s the closest thing to vacuum-sealed a hotel room can get. And though one of my favorite luxuries during a hotel stay is usually having someone else come during the day to make my bed and tidy up, I opted to skip intermittent cleaning during my stay just to cut down on further exposure. Additionally, I saw only one other guest on the same hotel floor as me, letting me know that the hotel is further spacing guests out across all 12 floors. A final note on cleanliness: all rooms remain unoccupied for a full 24 hours after checkout as an added precaution.
Separation is (politely) enforced within all common areas
A small sign outside of the three elevators requests that no more than two guests enter a single elevator at once if they’re not in the same group, and I found it easy to cut that down even more by only ever going into an elevator by myself. No one even rolled their eyes or complained if I wanted to wait; other guests respected this guideline and kept their distance in the lobby with ease. While relaxing by the pool, swimming in the water, and eating at the outdoor restaurant, physical boundaries were similarly observed with kindness by all guests and particularly by staff. Still, seeing a parade of unfamiliar faces throughout the day was jarring after several months of isolation. But the staff’s careful attention to distancing set the tone for the clientele, and I’ve felt more worried during other activities like picking up takeout, shopping at the grocery store or walking around the Hollywood Reservoir than I ever felt at the hotel.
Aesthetic has been sacrificed, in some areas, for the sake of safety
Hotel June is a renovation, not a new build, so a huge part of what sets it apart from the chain hotel that formerly occupied the space is paint and decor. Golden wood blinds mute the brightness and lots of tall, jungle-y plants and millennial-chic furniture turn in the lobby into an Instagram-friendly zone. With the front desk to the right and the lobby to the left upon entrance, guests are naturally drawn toward Scenic Route, the glowing gem of a restaurant in the middle of the hotel’s ground floor. But this indoor eating area has been completely closed for safety’s sake, and though it shuts down the lobby’s charm to some degree, this necessary sacrifice has been strategically made to deter guests from lingering.
The restaurant is so good it will attract non-guests to the hotel at all hours
Though the pool is currently open only to hotel guests, the elevated outdoor dining space above the area is most likely going to become a mainstay on the sometimes-sparse West Side dining scene. At least this close to the airport, it can be tough to find somewhere comfortable and accommodating, and Caravan Swim Club offers just those elements. Simple snacks like chips and guacamole are accompanied by a trio of salsas that turns a common app into a substantial, special meal. A spicy, orange salsa made with serrano peppers and garlic was so decadent a friend who came to eat with me declared she’d gladly drink it. With Steve Livigni of Scopa fame helming the menus here, it’s no surprise the food induces that kind of reaction.
If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, formal entrees also abound, but building a tier of savory snacks is the way to go. Cauliflower nachos turn a carb-heavy decadence into nourishing fare that’s completely vegan, and the turmeric cashew cheese is so tasty I couldn’t even tell a difference. Top it off with shrimp tacos and a ceviche to keep the West Coast feel going strong. And in the morning? Breakfast tacos! Keep with the vegan route and go for the scrambled tofu, a glorious mess of potato, avocado and scallion. The next time I’m headed to LAX, Caravan Swim Club will be my pitstop — why bother with overpriced airport bars when this full wine list and cocktail menu is so close?
Working out has been perfected as a solo artform
If you’re familiar with Proper Hotels, then you already know fitness is a big deal for the brand. Hotel June is no different, and the building’s entire second floor has been cleared for the duration of COVID-19, so that when guests visit to enter the gym, there’s zero chance they’ll encounter another guest. Gym use is restricted to a by-appointment system that’s first come, first serve, and includes thorough cleaning and disinfecting process between each patron. But state-of-the-art treadmills, cult-favorite Peloton bikes, plenty of free weights and a separate space for yoga or pilates make working out feel like a luxury. And working out all alone in a multi-room gym is one of the few restrictions of COVID I could get used to.
Though I was pretty skeptical of a hotel opening its doors during the pandemic, there was never a moment I felt unsafe or that my space wasn’t respected to a T during my stay. One potential dilemma for guests who are trying to be cautious is using the pool. I went during the afternoon one day and swam here and there when I was the only one in the water, but trying to enforce six feet of distance, or only one party at a time in the water, is pretty impossible. Lying out and ordering cocktails and guacamole is perhaps the safer bet until things are more certain.
But for those in need of a staycation, an escape from their apartment, or just wanting to try a great new restaurant, Hotel June is an idyllic new addition to the area. My advice? Go visit now while you can still have so much space to yourself, because that experience will soon be a thing of the past.
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