The Rockaway Hotel is Truly Rockaway

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 You wake up to the warmth and light of the morning sun after a good night’s rest in your comfy bed. Look to your right, out the windows of your balcony doors, past the rows of tiny bungalows below to the horizon and take in the glimmer upon the ocean as the waves crash upon the shore. Step out onto your terrace and breathe in that salty ocean air. You’ll be starting your day at the beach shortly, after a quick stop at the Greenhouse Café for coffee, and a hop, skip and a jump to the sand. After a few hours soaking up the sun and ocean breezes, you head back to your home away from home for your appointment at Spa Rockaway, soaking in all the relaxation of that deep-tissue massage. When the massage is over, continue your relaxation poolside, sipping a cocktail in one of the cabanas before heading back to your room to get ready for the night. Catch a culinary delight at Margie’s, the restaurant below, and end your night on top—at the rooftop bar. Enjoy a nightcap or two as you take in the last hues of the sunset as they transition to the lights of the New York City skyline that shine beyond Jamaica Bay, while reflecting on your perfect day spent at The Rockaway Hotel. That day may be within reach as the long-awaited hotel is expected to open this summer.

For the Tubridy family, a hotel in their own backyard was a longtime dream. Now that dream is on the verge of becoming a reality with hopes of a mid-summer opening, despite the latest obstacle of coronavirus. But if there’s anything Rockaway knows how to do, it’s overcome obstacles, and while The Rockaway Hotel aims to reach a market far beyond the peninsula, guests will get to experience that local spirit in almost every aspect, with the experience of a family with several generations of sand in their toes, and partners that will help take it to the next level.

On Thursday, May 14, The Rockaway Times got an on-site tour of what’s to come from one of the owners, Dan “Dee” Tubridy. With 53 hotel rooms, offering a can’t-beat view of the bay or ocean, plus eight longer-stay suites, the hotel will finally provide a large one-stop shop for visitors to stay. With an 88-seat restaurant serving American classics and more, to poolside menus with health-conscious options, to a grab-and-go corner store offering coffee and quick items like sandwiches, guests will never go hungry. With a pool offering 61 seats plus another 81 at the outdoor bar and cabanas to lounge in, guests can opt to enjoy a day at the pool if the beach isn’t calling their name. With an on-site clothing store, Warm, guests can pick up something new or something they may have forgotten at home, from a wide choice of high-end to casual attire. With poolside bars, restaurant bars and even a rooftop bar offering unbeatable views, guests can indulge in cocktails while enjoying different atmospheres. With underground valet parking and plans for additional parking space, guests and visitors will be able to access the hotel by car, if they’re not already planning on getting there by the nearby ferry. With open spaces from the main event space to outdoor rooftop space available for endless party possibilities or community programming, the hotel will consistently offer ways to meet the needs of both the community, and of course, the guests.

Those behind The Rockaway Hotel are hoping to tap into a broad market of guests, including corporations looking for a place to hold events. “Not many people believe corporations will come down here, but I know from experience—they’re already down here. They just had no place to go,” Dee Tubridy said. The hotel will not only give corporations a place to stay by the beach, but now a large venue for locals to hold big events such as weddings for up to 350 people with multiple event spaces and on-site catering, as well as a place for visitors to stay afterwards.

While the owners anticipate guests being mostly those from out-of-town, as with any hotel model, most aspects of The Rockaway Hotel will be accessible to all. “This will be like Rockaway’s living room—a place that will be welcoming to all,” Dee Tubridy said. The local community will be able to access all bars and eateries within the hotel, lounge areas to use as a workspace, the spa, programming and even the pool with a day pass. “This is not exclusive. We’re embracing the local vibe and we want locals to feel like this is theirs,” Tubridy said. And locals will notice the neighborhood tie-ins throughout, that will give new visitors a welcoming sample of all that Rockaway has to offer.

Tubridy brothers, Dee and Terence, those behind In Good Company Hospitality, have brought their local experience to this project, which is being elevated by partners, 7G Realty, led by Jon Krasner, who brings his experience of running the Hero Beach Club in Montauk to the table, and partner, Michi Jigarjian, who is spearheading arts and cultural programming for hotel guests and locals alike.

Everything from the bigger aspects to the most minute details showcase local love. The hotel’s main restaurant—Margie’s—has personal meaning to the Tubridys, as it is named after their grandmother. “Margie Murphy was a host of hosts. Music, joy and laughter is what she brought to any room. She loved Rockaway, and its people, and as her grandsons, we couldn’t think of a better way to honor her memory by naming the restaurant after her. It’s our grandparents’ stories about old Rockaway that have inspired this project,” Terence Tubridy said.

The spa is none other than Spa Rockaway. Owner Pat Rorke is excited about the new location, where she says her grandparents used to rent a summer place in the 1940s. The spa will offer a menu of services from massage to facials with ocean-based luxury in mind, such as making use of seaweed and other items, as well as some of the best treatments available in the world, such as advanced facial treatments and services such as EmSculpt, embraced by celebrities. Rorke is proud to offer Spa Rockaway’s services at the hotel and to be a part of this new endeavor. “Rockaway should have this. We should have a beautiful hotel in our neighborhood, and I think this will be the start of great things. We deserve it,” she said.

Even some of the hotel’s smallest details have Rockaway in mind. In the bars, you’ll find some local beers from Rockaway Brewing Company. In the bathrooms you’ll find soaps and bath products from local brand, Goldie’s. On terraces, you’ll find plants in macramé hangers produced by Rockaway Beach-based artist Fabiola Sheppard of Handmade Cocoon.

The hotel will partner with local businesses and organizations to offer some programming in art, culture and environmental conservation. This includes surf lessons provided by Locals Surf School and other wellness options. The hotel will sponsor various art projects, some in partnership with the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Park Conservancy and the Rockaway Artists Alliance. One such project is the third iteration of the Rockaway Arts Festival. The Liberty Bell Project, a virtual public art installation by Nancy Baker Cahill, produced by JBRPC and Art Production Fund, is set to launch on July 4th, and by its nature can be enjoyed safely while following social distancing guidelines. The hotel is also doing outreach, serving as a main sponsor of the neighboring Seaside Playground’s Big Yard Mural by the students of Waterside Children’s Studio School, set to launch in September. Tubridy says they also plan to work with those at the St. John’s Boys Home, offering some of the residents a place to train and learn about culinary and hospitality trades.

Some programming and even some aspects of the hotel may be limited due to the current circumstance of coronavirus complicating plans and certain restrictions in place. Construction is ongoing, full-speed ahead, which Tubridy anticipates being complete by the end of June for a late June/ early July opening. But as of right now, just getting open is the main goal. “I hope that we’re allowed to open. That’s really all I can hope for and we’ll deal with the restrictions as they come, but it would be really terrible if we lost the whole summer because opening this hotel in the off-season would be challenging,” Tubridy said.

In the meantime, they’re hopeful. Reservations opened earlier this month, with rooms available starting in August. Despite coronavirus disrupting plans, Dee says the reservations are rolling in, from those near and far. “They’re booking! The people are booking from all over. We have one coming from Chicago and even one from Ireland,” Dee Tubridy said. “Let’s get this open!”

Opening rates for the hotel start at $350 a night for the peak season. To book a room or for more information, check out www.therockawayhotel.com.

 By Katie McFadden

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