Newark Gets No Respect in Clark
Hotel's re-Naming to include city sparks outcry
A nearly $3 million renovation of the Clark Crowne Plaza was unveiled this month to rave reviews – and more than a few raised eyebrows.
The newly rebranded Holiday Inn, Clark-Newark, may have travelers wondering if they've gotten lost on the Garden State Parkway, but it's definitely got locals upset about the municipal link.
"What Holiday Inn is doing is testing a new prototype called 'The Hub at Holiday Inn,'" explains hotel manager Dhaval Brahmbhatt. "The main feature is a new lobby with an open-space concept that includes a couple components relating to food and relaxation."
But the question for some Clark locals remains: What's with the name? Brahmbhatt says the response from guests on the rebranding has been positive. But some Clark residents are unhappy with the hotel's implied association with Newark. Several wrote to Patch questioning the seemingly incongruous alliance of a quiet suburban town and the state's largest city, which is roughly 12 miles away.
Mayor Sal Bonaccorso says he's heard the grumblings, too.
"I got a call from one resident who was irate and had someone who I coach with say something," Bonaccorso told Patch. "I did speak to the Holiday Inn people and it’s basically a business thing so that when people look up in the directory for hotels by Newark Airport it’ll pop up as a destination to come to."
Bonaccorso admits he wasn't thrilled to see "Newark" on a sign in Clark, either, but says the hotel is not violating any town ordinances.
"People have a right to market their company," says Bonaccorso. "They also pay a lot of money in sewer fees, hotel taxes and regular taxes and the town benefits from that. Still, that’s not a reason for me to take their side. I’m calling it down the middle. If you don't like it, just don't patronize the place."
"Full disclosure, my company does the landscaping for the hotel," adds Bonaccorso. "And standing right in front of the sign, I didn't even notice it at first."
"I know there’s been a lot of concern from several residents in the area and they’ve even gone as far as to call the hotel and express their concern," Kelly Leftheris, the Holiday Inn's director of sales, told Patch.
"We haven't heard too much, though," adds Brahmbhatt. "And if we have, it's been a one-off. Knowing this town, I don’t know that this is such a big movement on anyone’s part."
Brahmbhatt says having Newark in the hotel's branding is critical to capitalize on hotel guests who fly in and out of Newark Liberty International Airport. When those travelers do an Internet search for Newark area hotels, the Clark Holiday Inn pops up as a result of the new branding.
"Because that is our name on the website, that’s why we kept it 'Clark-Newark' on the sign," says Brahmbhatt. "When people book with us that's the name of the hotel they're booking, and we want them to be able to recognize it when they get here."
Besides, says Brahmbhatt, the Crowne Plaza was "the Crowne Plaza, Clark-Newark," even if it wasn't advertised that way on the signage.
The change from Crowne Plaza to Holiday Inn does not mean the hotel has changed hands, however. Parent company Lane Hospitality still operates the hotel and oversaw the brand switch. Among the new features in the hotel, the Hub includes a new restaurant and lounge, a WiFi media lounge, a business center called the "eBar," a Wii gaming room and an outdoor fire-pit area. (Check out renderings of the new design in our gallery, above right.) Rooms start at $99 a night.
"We've also done a complete refresh of the rest of the hotel," says Brahmbhatt. "We redid all 192 of the rooms, plus, guest corridors and meeting spaces. Every guest area has been touched and renovated. It's a new and very modern-looking hotel with an open floor plan."
Brahmbhatt says the Clark location was selected to be only the second hotel in the world to launch the new concept. "We were chosen because of success of Crowne Plaza," says Brahmbhatt. "The last couple of years, we won some major awards, including one that recognized the Clark location as in the top 3 percent of all Crowne Plazas."
“We’re really excited to launch this into the community," he says. "It’s really going to attract people into this area that normally wouldn’t come here.” Brahmbhatt estimates that the hotel brings about 100,000 visitors into Clark over the course of a year.
Brahmbhatt says that the name change is nothing new for the company, pointing out that other local hotels owned by Lane Hospitality tout a Newark connection, including the Holiday Inn, Carteret-Newark and the Hotel Indigo, Rahway-Newark. "It's something many hotels have been doing in the last five years," he says.
Brahmbhatt adds that those hotels haven't heard any complaints about the Newark association.
"Besides, Newark is a big destination," says Brahmbhatt. "It’s not the city of Newark – it’s the airport and the Prudential Center and what Mayor Booker is doing. We see a lot of benefit marketing-wise. I think locals here have one perception of Newark but, dealing with travelers, they have a very positive impression these days. It's not a bad thing to attach yourself to that."