The trouble continues for one of Los Angeles’s most iconic hospitality and restaurant destinations. Chateau Marmont, the Sunset Strip hangout known for celebrities, not-so-well-hidden debauchery, and the annual Jay-Z and Beyoncé post-Oscar party, is now under fire from Hollywood Reporter writer and restaurant critic Gary Baum. In a scathing story with nearly three-dozen sources, Baum puts forward a number of ruinous allegations against the Chateau Marmont and owner André Balazs, ranging from sexual misconduct claims and overt discrimination to “neglectful management” and union-busting.
In the massive story up now on Hollywood Reporter, titled Rot at Hollywood’s “Playground,” Baum begins by alleging that multi-millionaire hotelier owner Balazs — who also owns the Mercer in New York and the Chiltern Firehouse in London — only announced plans earlier this summer to turn the hotel into a private members-only club as a way to lay off staff and keep employees from forming a union. The move sounds similar to the Augie’s Coffee issue from back in July, though Balazs denies that this was the impetus for making any changes.
From there, the story winds into the troubling lives of many lower-level hotel staff members, including a decade-long housekeeper named Sonia Molina Sanchez who says that Balazs and higher-level employees did nothing when she complained of overtly sexual behavior from a male hotel guest. Another employee, Adrian Jules, says that a fellow employee sent sexually suggestive texts to him, but that the company lacked a formal human resources department and thus nothing was done when he raised the issue with higher-ups.
Balazs is to blame directly for much of the culture at Chateau Marmont, says Baum. Ultra-special VIPs who were close with Balazs would demand to keep drinking after the 2 a.m. legal cutoff, and would threaten the employment of staff members if told no. Balazs himself is described as “an alcoholic, drug-addicted father” by one anonymous staff member, and the Hollywood Reporter alleges multiple instances of sexual misconduct and abuse by him over the years, including at the Standard hotel, which he also opened. A highly public groping incident involving actress Amanda Anka (that ended in husband Jason Bateman reportedly spitting his gum in Balazs’ face) made the rounds in 2017, but other incidents resulted only in confidential settlements.
There’s a lot more to the Hollywood Reporter story, including quotes from many longtime former employees about BIPOC discrimination in staffing, drug-fueled parties that destroyed rooms and left staff scrambling to clean up, and the recent struggles of the property (including rooms being available for rent on Expedia before the pandemic). Here’s one example:
Employees portray the hotel as an institution defined by racial prejudice. It starts, they say, with Balazs himself, a micro-managerial personality who they perceive has a clear preference in hiring and promoting white workers “on the floor,” hospitality speak for high-visibility roles, and that managers are so cognizant of hewing to it that they shift staff when he’s on site to appease him, and have even called in certain employees on their days off who best fit his favored aesthetic.
It’s also worth noting that the adjacent closed restaurant Bar Marmont is also discussed, as writer Baum alleges that Balazs had planned to turn the building into a private sex-themed party space, where attendees would be told to leave their cell phones in locked boxes and the entrance itself was emblazoned with “a brass phallus doorknob [that] was removed after hotel employees complained.”
It’s important to note that Balazs, through his PR firm and his lawyers, deny most everything in the Hollywood Reporter story, particularly the diversity issues and sexual impropriety claims. Go read the whole thing now.