It has been roughly one year since celebrities like Elton John, Jay Leno, and Ellen DeGeneres initiated a boycott against the posh Beverly Hills Hotel, once a popular hotspot in the bustling, star-filled heart of Hollywood.
The Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest men in the world and the owner of the hotel, had implemented anti-women, anti-LGBT Sharia law in his Southeast Asian country, and Hollywood celebrities urged friends, colleagues, and others to stay away.
“We’re just making people aware,” Leno told CNN at the time. “It’s not a political issue. It’s not something that’s debatable.”
In February, Oscar-winning musician John Legend skipped a party in his honor hosted by L.A. Confidential magazine because it was scheduled to take place at the hotel. The Human Rights Campaign had written a letter to the magazine demanding a different venue for the party, but the event went on as scheduled, albeit without its guest of honor.
That was the closest the hotel has come to seeing A-list action in some time.
“As a celebrity photographer, the Beverly Hills Hotel was one of the best,” Karl Larsen told the New York Post. “I was always there covering Oscar parties, red carpets, lavish charity luncheons. Since the boycott, I have not been there to do any events. Not one. There hasn’t been a peep.”
Last year, Post reporter Maureen Callahan visited the hotel ten days after the boycott began and described its vast emptiness:
“I took a long walk down an abandoned first-floor hallway to the elevator. It was like being in a five-star version of The Shining; I passed no one,” Callahan wrote. “Another long walk down the fourth-floor hallway, which was spotless and empty and eerily quiet. It was scented with lavender.”
When the boycott began, some celebrities questioned the choice of tactic, saying the business stoppage would not hurt the Sultan of Brunei but rather the hotel’s everyday employees.
“The laws that Brunei are adopting are hideous,” actor Russell Crowe said at the time. “However, throwing the staff of Dorchester Collection Hotels (which owns the BH Hotel) under the bus to make a political point is not acceptable to me. These are hard-working people with families and I guarantee you they come from all walks of life. To me, it is not acceptable collateral damage to ignore them.”
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian agreed, saying the boycott would not dent the Sultan’s wallet, “just our dear friends who work there.”
And it appears they were right; one employee told the Post that after the boycott began, most of the hotels’ 650-person staff were told to stay home, and others were fired.
“We knew it was coming. But then it exploded with the celebrity boycott,” the employee said.
Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Group, which owns nine other hotels including the Beverly Hills Hotel sister establishment Hotel Bel-Air, blasted the boycott organizers for what he characterized as selective punishment.
“Many iconic brands across a wide variety of industries — hotels, real estate, consumer products, luxury goods, technology and others — are backed by countries governed by Sharia and not aligned with our civil liberties,” Cowdray told CNBC. “Against this backdrop, we question why the Beverly Hills Hotel is being singled out.”
Still, the hotel’s employees remain optimistic. Prices for rooms at the hotel have reportedly risen from a “paltry” $500 per night back up to a more restrictive $1,600 per night. And some celebrities have started coming back “slowly but surely.”
“I think our old clients are starting to forget about it and are starting to come back,” an employee told the Post.
However, it appears one A-lister has not changed his mind.
“I miss Steven Spielberg,” a hotel waiter told the paper. “He used to always come in for breakfast, but that was before.”