Talde Team and Hotel 50 Bowery in Damage Control Over ‘Opium Den’ Themed Club

Posted on: May 24th, 2017 at 5:00 am by

In response to the opinion piece we ran on Monday regarding its controversial opium den-themed basement club, Green Lady, the Joie de Vivre hotel is in full damage control mode. (The New York Post also picked up the story.)

Their public relations firm Wagstaff Worldwide would have you believe it’s semantics. They issued the following statement assuming full responsibility for the confusion over the Green Lady’s inspiration inside Hotel 50 Bowery:

The use of the phrase was originally used to describe the portions of décor found at The Green Lady, the hotel’s cellar-level lounge. We’ve since moved away from that language, and communications should have been updated sooner to reflect the 30s era Shanghai China theme that has been decided on for the space. The Green Lady represents contrast – soft bold fabrics meet gritty, distressed existing finishes. This is symbolic of the evolution of the neighborhood, paying homage to both the nostalgia of the past as well as the electric energy of the future. Upon opening, The Green Lady will welcome patrons with expertly-crafted cocktails, live entertainment and music. The hotel recognizes the sensitivity around the phrase, has removed the descriptor from all communications, and apologizes for using it.

Blah, blah, back pedal…

Dale Talde, whose Three Kings Restaurant Group is behind the food and beverage at Hotel 50 Bowery, distanced himself from the controversy. He lambasted use of the phrase “opium den,” and explained how it was a “real fuck up” on the part of Wagstaff. “That never was the intent. The PR team for the hotel and the design team for the hotel are the ones who did this. They’re the ones who fucked up,” Talde told Eater yesterday afternoon. “We never even mentioned opium den once in design meetings.”

January 2013

Chinatown activist Karlin Chan had previously written how ironic it is that a hotel honoring the neighborhood would allow a business to highlight such a negative stereotype. When it comes to opium and opium dens, it invokes memories of a time in China when imperialistic powers carved out spheres of influence to govern and trade as they pleased. British traders who lacked gold and silver to pay for products refined poppies into opium to pay for goods, and worked alongside corrupt Ching dynasty officials to weaken the central government and its people by addicting a nation to exploit. Admittedly, there were a handful of opium dens that operated in New York City Chinatown from the late 1800s until the turn of the century, but some were actually “fakes” owned by Caucasians who promoted a dark and sinister image of the “Yellow Devil” Chinese following the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and at the height of “Yellow Journalism.”

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