Behold the Liberty Inn, a strange little hotel on the edge of Manhattan's Meatpacking District that charges by the hour and unabashedly markets itself as “your rendezvous for romance.” That’s right: Just a stone's throw from some of NYC's trendiest restaurants and priciest designer boutiques (not to mention a few fancypants hotels), you can rent a room for the express purpose of illicit sex. The kind of place, in other words, that was a fixture of pre-Giuliani Manhattan but has since been largely eradicated from the city’s tonier neighborhoods.
Curious about this conveniently-located oasis of infidelity, a couple of us packed our cameras and checked in to give it the Oyster treatment. Here’s what we found:
Pros *Reasonable hourly rates *Discreet yet convenient location *Mirrored ceilings, padded headboards *Cash accepted *Lobby vending machine sells condoms for every size
Cons *No reservations *Depressing beige décor and sterile lobby *Thin doors and walls *Stains on bedspread
Scene To borrow the old Hooters slogan, the Liberty Inn is "delightfully tacky" – and pretty much what you’d expect given the market niche it’s aimed at. Mirrors on the walls and ceilings? Check. Padded headboards? For sure. A don't-ask-don't-tell attitude? But of course.
The Liberty Inn doesn’t take reservations -- walk-ins only; first come, first served -- so would-be guests loiter in the lobby until a room is available upstairs. With its beige-heavy color scheme, purple suede furniture, and bullet-proof-glass-enclosed check-in desk, the sterile-looking space could almost be mistaken for a dentist’s waiting room. The big tipoff is the vending machine in the corner, which stocks K-Y Jelly, Tic-Tacs, and eight varieties of condoms.
The property’s 50 rooms are spread across two guestroom floors. As you walk to your private den of iniquity, a symphony of thumps, heavy breathing, and ecstatic moans leaks into the hallway. The rooms themselves are largely designed for functionality, but do possess some wow factor: Painted clouds or flowers on the ceiling are illuminated by a soft blue light and surrounded on the perimeter by mirrors. Exquisite.
Ok, so not so exquisite. But given the fine location on the edge of Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District and just a short cab ride from the caverns of Wall Street, the hourly rates -- $60 for two hours; $70 for three -- are pretty reasonable. That said, don’t spend the $150 to $180 the Liberty charges for a whole night; if you actually want a decent place to sleep, head to the Holiday Inn NYC on 6th Avenue, a newly-renovated but affordable property whose walls have fewer stories to tell.
Location The Liberty Inn’s perch on a wedge-shaped Meatpacking District traffic island formed by 10th Avenue, 14th Street, and the West Side Highway is ideal: inconspicuously discreet and out-of-the-way -- so the chances of an embarrassing run-in are slim -- yet just a few steps from the epicenter of this hottest of Manhattan neighborhoods, with its tony restaurants, packed nightclubs, and chic boutiques. And, if cornered by an angry spouse, guests can easily escape on foot to the north and south via picturesque Hudson River Park.
Service Check-in involves handing your cash through a slot in the bullet-proof window -- and no questions are asked. Room service is apparently available, but we didn’t try it and wouldn’t recommend it. If you expect to work up an appetite, we suggest grabbing some gourmet provisions at nearby Chelsea Market on your way over.
We ran into one housekeeper during our Liberty experience; she was making her rounds and, it seemed, dilligently changing the sheets between guests. She did not make eye contact.
Rooms Beyond the cloud-covered and mirrored ceiling, the room had the look and feel of a motel: ugly flowery bedspread, drab grey carpet, and institutional-looking fixtures in the bathroom.
*Ashtrays and remote controls (attached to the nightstand by both a cord and dirty Velcro) on both sides of the bed *Clear views of the High Line *Flat-screen plasma television with nine (!) free adult-entertainment channels *Dimmers on the light switches, labeled “romantic lighting” *Padded headboards; ours was stain-free *The ugly bedspread wasn’t
Cleanliness Except for the bedspread, everything was fairly clean. The sheets appeared fresh, though we did not bring a black light to inspect further. Nothing cringe inducing in the bathroom. Would we sleep here? No. But if you’ve ever used a public restroom, your naked body has touched worse.