Last October, Montclair’s MC Hotel held a grand opening party, with live music, food drink, and performances on every floor.
Just five months later, after the COVID pandemic hit, the 159 guest rooms, restaurant, lobby and rooftop bars went suddenly silent.
Now the hotel is opening again, gradually, carefully, and with much less fanfare.
The outdoor rooftop bar, with views of the New York City skyline, opened June 25, with tables and couches spaced six-feet apart, staggered reservations and two-hour time-limits.
On September 11, Allegory, the hotel restaurant, with a new executive chef, will begin serving all-day brunch at six socially-distanced tables in the outdoor rotunda on weekends.
Rooms can now be booked again for Sept. 11 and beyond, along with private parties of 50 and under in the outdoor spaces.
This time around, the MC Hotel is emphasizing safety rather than sparkle. According to general manager Oscar Roos, hotel staff, gradually returning from furloughs, are adhering closely to government guidelines and protocols developed by parent companies Marriott and Aparium Hotels.
“We’ve gotten a lot of rave reviews and comments due to our guidelines; we are really strict,” he said. “All employees wear masks and gloves at all times and get temperature checks and health screenings when they arrive at the property each day. Making sure guests are safe is a top priority.”
New food focus
Executive chef Amber Lancaster has replaced Daniel Krill, who returned to his native Germany during the pandemic, Roos said.
Lancaster comes from Chicago, most recently Soho House and Alinea restaurant, and attended culinary school at Julia Child’s alma mater, Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu.
Her focus is on “clean” cooking, including paleo, keto and gluten free options, which, she says, “make more sense for the type of guest you have in Montclair.”
She’s inspired by produce at the Montclair Farmers market, especially the Vacchiano Farm stand.
New on the rooftop bar’s bites menu is her Thai-style Ahi Tuna Tartare, with crispy shallots, mango, cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro vinaigrette.
Beginning Sept. 11, Allegory will be serving all-day brunch Friday through Sunday outdoors in the lobby rotunda , since “Montclair is such a big brunch town,” Roos said.
Diners looking for healthy can go with the acai bowl (coconut, avocado, carmelized banana and chia seeds) and those craving the opposite can order Horchata French toast–brioche soaked in cinnamon cream, with a crust made crispy with clarified butter, served with homemade fresh peach jam.
Dogs are welcome, and a “woof woof” menu will include doggie treats.
Seating will be limited, with six tables of four.
A local musician will play at brunch and a DJ on the rooftop beginning in September, Roos said. He has heaters ready and is looking into tents to continue outdoor service into the colder months if necessary.
Roos said the rooftop bar has been booked solid on Fridays and Saturdays, so reservations, made through opentable, are highly recommended. Seating is limited to socially distanced outdoor tables and couches, for a maximum of two hours. There is no service at the bar, only table-service.
Rooftop visitors enter through the Bloomfield Avenue lobby and take a dedicated elevator to the 9th floor. An employee escorts patrons so they don’t have to push elevator buttons, but they can also elect to go up themselves, Roos said. No more than four are permitted in the elevator.
Masks must be worn at all times except when eating or drinking; in and out lanes are indicated with directional arrows on the lobby floor, and reservations are staggered at 15-minute intervals so separate parties aren’t arriving together. “There is a lot of signage so there is no need to interact with other people,” Roos said.
A new item on the drink menu could be a sign of the times. The Ginger Paloma, with lemon, ginger and a touch of apple cider vinegar, has been very popular, possibly due to its immune-boosting and infection-fighting properties. “It is also very refreshing,” he said.
The MC is following the Marriott’s “Clean Promise” guarantee, which requires a three-day period between room reservations, according to Roos. The first day after a guest leaves, the room stands empty; the second day, it is disinfected with electrostatic spray, and the third it gets thoroughly cleaned before the next guest arrives.
Minibars have been removed from the rooms; guests can request items, which are left outside their door after a knock to alert them.
The hotel’s business model has always been to become part of the community by using local vendors, artists and performers, and Roos said that approach has continued through the pandemic. Row House and Jane DO are using the hotel’s rotunda and porte cochere for fitness classes, and the hotel has begun ordering the town’s signature products again, such as Montclair Brewery’s Black is Beautiful beer.
Roos has been keeping in touch with furloughed staff, sharing recipes and photos of his family and encouraging them to do the same.
“It’s been a rough ride for the restaurant and bar business,” he said. “We are bringing a few more employees back every week and it’s been a real pleasure to see them. We’ve been waiting for light at the end of tunnel and think it is coming.”
Beginning Sept. 11 the rooftop bar will be open seven days a week (now closed Monday and Tuesday). Hours are 3 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays through Sundays. The lobby rotunda will be open for brunch 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Julia Martin covers Montclair for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.