Goodbye, Hotel Chelsea (updated with news of a reprieve)

Hotel Chelsea
Hotel Chelsea

News reached me today from Crap Mariner of the closure of one of the most iconic builds on the mainland, the Hotel Chelsea, which we featured in a Designing Worlds show last season, is closing.

Mykal Skall, the creator of the Hotel district, contacted his group to explain:

It is with heavy heart that I contact you today, to let you know that the Virtual Hotel Chelsea is shutting its doors.

Three years ago this may we departed on this adventure with you our Bohemian friends and supporters.  It was a different time in the RL and SL economy, and a different mindset in the customer service department of Linden Labs.

We quickly became friends with RL residents of the RL Hotel and became advocates on their behalf in the virtual world.

We relished our 15 minutes of fame as the New York Times picked up our story and welcomed thousands of new visitors as Linden Labs made us its #1 “Hot Spot”.

We became a family, a dysfunctional one at times, but one who cared about each other no matter what.

We expanded, downsized, then expanded again.

We hosted hundreds of the greatest artists, musicians, and poets in SL and RL, and even broadcast from the RL Hotel to the SL Hotel, a first in the history of either landmark.

We felt the pain of our family in the RL Hotel as it became clear that no manner of hoping, praying, or wishing, was going to “Bring Back the Bards” and we cried as the doors were shut and the rooms gutted.

We hoped to stay true to the spirit of the heyday of the real hotel, to preserve it even if only in a virtual world.

The crowd we attracted mirrored the creatives and quirky that the made the RL hotel the mecca of bohemia.

As time went on, tips went down, we had to lower rent to keep tenants, and unfortunately had to start paying our musicians less, but we insisted on paying them something even if it wasn’t much.

We also set ourselves apart from other SL venues in that we only allowed “live” music, no pre-recorded background music, this made us a haven for the best singer/songwriters in SL.

Unfortunately, for quite a while we have been losing money, but this was never about money, so we kept running.  Then we lost some donors to our group land and I went to LL tech support to see what we needed to do, I was repeatedly told that this wasn’t an issue (I kept a transcript btw).

Then a few weeks ago we were contacted by Guy Linden who said that we needed to come into compliance with our group land.  Even though I proved that I (was) proactive and was given “wrong” information by LL tech support, this didn’t make a difference.

As a temporary “bandaid” I bought more land in Lanestris to give us some time to figure out what to do.  Of course this made my tier skyrocket and made an already losing venture lose more.

I’ve tried to move things around, scale it down, etc.  But I can’t find a way that I can afford to continue to give the build what it needs.  And quite frankly, I have enough stressers in RL, that something needs to give and unfortunately this is one of them.

I have been blessed along this journey by many amazing individuals, and I cannot even begin to thank each and every one of you, but I have to thank my partner in this venture, enola Vaher, without whom this would have shut down years ago.  When my RL took me away from here for months at a time, she kept everything going, I may have built the skeleton of the Chelsea, but she was the soul that made it what it was.  And for very little compensation.  Thank you enola.

To may other staff members throughout the years, Donna, Perk, Cinn… thank you for being a part of this.

Thanks to Sky for helping me get it off the ground.

And to each and every one of you, who visited, played here, hung your art here, lived here, died here, or just stopped in to see the ghost of Sid and Nancy.  Thank you, it’s been an amazing run.

To those of you still holding out in the RL Hotel, Ed, Deb, Artie, and the rest, our hearts are there with you.

This is very sad news.  Clearly, the Hotel was struggling – and the problem of declining tips has hit many, many venues. But equally clearly, the situation this time has not been helped by confusing messages from the Lab.

At the very least, there should be a Linden charged with checking up when one of the iconic builds goes into default (or holds up a hand and announces problems by contacting support).  This isn’t to say that such builds should be archived by the Lab – in fact, I would suggest to Mykal that – if he wants to preserve the build –  he could archive all the parts that he has full permissions for to Kitely where it will cost him nothing – and the people who want to visit will pay.  But I think the Lab need to do something to dispel the impression that they are doing nothing at all to help the drain of important builds out of Second Life … in fact, their information and sometimes downright idiocy is in fact exacerbating the situation – the billing problem that nearly drove the Elves away, for example.

Second Lie (as so often) nails it: We are proud of the “historical” builds in Second Life. In fact, we’re working hard to make them history!

Let’s try to stop that, fellers? Please?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE

We have had some immensely cheering news about the Chelsea: one of the residents of the real life hotel, still holding out against eviction in the real world, has donated a month’s tier to keep the build going, and is going to work with other real life residents to keep the Virtual Hotel going.  I’ve pasted the rest of the message below in the comments.

 

6 comments

  1. This is so sad, it seems barely any time ago that we were filming here for Designing Worlds, recording this important landmark of both real and virtual history. I can’t help but feel that SL has entered a virtual 1960s, when in the UK we lost many wonderful buildings to short sighted planners who bulldozed our heritage in favour of concrete eyesores. We look back at this time and think how different it could have been and I fear the same retrospective is coming to SL.

  2. It is always sad to see an iconic landmark disappear, it doesn’t really matter what virtual world it is from. Hotel Chelsea gave LL a lot and in return they wouldn’t even archive it!

    I love the SL platform but LL has none of my sympathies. Hence InWorldz and Kitely is where I most exist virtually.

  3. Here’s the latest news about the hotel from Mykal Skall:

    Bohemians,

    You all know how gutwrenching the decision to shut down the Virtual Hotel has been for me.

    Since making the announcement, my heart has been pulled in hundreds of directions. I have had so many people tell me how much the build has meant to them, I have had the author of an upcoming book on the history of the RL hotel tell me that she had named the epilogue of that book “The Chelsea’s Second Life” referring to what we have done here.

    I’ve had offers of free space on OpenSims, offers of partnerships from sim owners, and offers to buy the build outright, and even a threat that if I shut it down that they will immediately “build one themselves”. Obviously, they don’t know my secret weapon is enola.

    While seeing so many people here made me wonder why they weren’t here while we were alive and well (enola informed me that people like to watch things die), and the sentiments touched my heart, the realist in me kept saying that “sentiments don’t pay the bills”. I wished this was just a genius marketing ploy to get your interest up, but alas it was not.

    The sad fact is that if we don’t have donors of land tier to the group, and don’t have enough donations to cover tier, we can’t pay the bills. We pay artists and staff not nearly what they deserve, but we do pay them, and we have streaming costs, not to mention lining the coffers of Linden Labs.

    Something you may not know is that the current build of the hotel while it is a very accurate “representation” of the RL hotel, it only has half as many floors inside. When I originally built it, I was working off of memory and a few pictures I had taken there. It was never intended to be a business.

    Something else you may not know (unless you had been flying several thousand meters above the current build) is that I had obtained an original copy of an 1800’s blueprint of the hotel, and had enlarged it to SL scale, and was about 40% done building a much more accurate model to pay tribute to this amazing landmark.

    While I entertained all the options, and shed a few tears along the way, I still couldn’t find a way to make things work without sacrificing the integrity of what we had all made here.

    I prepared a memorial to the SL hotel, and decided it would remain on a 512m parcel where the current doorway lies as a tribute to all of you and to the RL residents still fighting to save the hotel.

    One of those residents, Mr. Arthur Nash became my friend over the last few years since I started this project. “Artie” is a person that you can’t help but like the first time you meet him, intense, funny, and clearly quirky enough to deserve a place in the eternity of Chelsea Hotel history. He is an author and curator of all things related to violent death. He runs the “Mob Scene Gallery” in NYC, and is one of the most vocal and active residents still held out in the midst of the RL Hotel. He’s the subject of the first line of my song “Chelsea Hotel #9”: “Hey Artie where the hell did Stanley go?”.

    Arthur heard that we were shutting down, and contacted me to find out why, so I explained the situation in much less professional terms than what you read in the notecard. He described what we’ve done here as “Allowing people to experience the Hotel as it was before all these creeps arrived on the scene.”

    A bigger compliment was never paid to me.

    Then, tonight as I logged in to attend our closing party, another message arrived from Artie committing to pay for us to stay alive for one more month out of his pocket and to work with other RL residents to start a fundraiser to save the Virtual Hotel. As he said, if just a hundred people who love the Chelsea donate $20 we could almost cover costs for a year.

    It’s humbling to have people fighting to keep their homes, and to maintain the soul of the Chelsea, think that what we are doing here is important enough to keep it going.

    It was like a last minute reprieve from the Governor.

    How can I refuse.

    This experience has humbled me and made me appreciate what we have here much more, hopefully it’s done the same for you.

    If we are going to keep the Chelsea in SL long term, we all need to put our money where our mouths are.

    I need to commit to get the new build worked out as soon as possible, and we need people to donate tier to the group and we will start fundraising immediately. You can donate to any of the soup cans here, or if you prefer to donate large sums of RL cash you can do this via my Paypal account “mykalskall@gmail.com”.

  4. A bit more got sent when SL stopped burping:

    One of the toughest decisions I had to make when deciding to shut down, was to displace so many of our residents and gallery owners who had become part of our family over the last three years. I am sorry.

    I hope you will rejoin us after we return following this brief intermission. I’d asked enola to prepare a list of all renters at the time I made the decision. Each of them will be offered two weeks of free rent when we reopen, I hope you’ll continue to be part of our quite dysfunctional family.

    However this gives me the chance to work out all the land issues and to build the better, more accurate and more efficient version in the same area.

    I intend to keep as much of the current hotel intact as I build the new one, unless I need parts :-), and we may even continue to have shows from time to time, as enola has accepted my offer to stay employed with us. (If the outpouring of donations match the outpouring of emotions, she may even get a raise!)

    I thank you for being a part of this, this is YOUR Hotel, it only exists WITH you, but it is now clear that it exists far beyond the borders of Second Life, and will continue to thanks to all of you.

    And I’d like each and every one of you to hit up Mr. Arthur Nash on Facebook and tell him what this means to you. You can find him off of my page or the Virtual Hotel Chelsea Group.

    I know you all came here for the wake of the Virtual Hotel Chelsea, and I hate to disappoint you, but “The Corpse Just Blinked”.

    Mykal Skall, March 17, 2012.

  5. I lived in the RL Chelsea Hotel for many years, and when I read an article that there was a Chelsea Hotel in SL. . .well that was what lead me to SL.

    I am saddened by this news, just as I am saddened by what has been happening with the RL Chelsea. All of the art work has now been taken down in the lobby, and it looks like a very sterile, boring condo, which is exactly what the new owners want.

    The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

  6. So glad they’ve found support! They should really do a kickstarter campaign. I’ve seen some MUCH less worthy projects than this actually do ok with them… this is a true part of our cultural heritage (virtual AND physical) and I’d love to see it saved!

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