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Meet the man who was this hotel’s only guest during the pandemic

There’s been a lot of talk about whether hotels are the best place to quarantine arriving travellers. But surely if there’s a one guest per hotel, there’d be no issue right?


That’s not exactly what happened at the Chatwal hotel in Midtown Manhattan. 


When New York City went into lockdown in March last year, the Chatwal had to close its doors. But the owners couldn’t just lock the doors and walk away. The city’s fire department required that one person stay on site in case of trouble, Crain’s reported.


That person was Robert Mallia. 


Mallia is the architectural director for the company that owns the Chatwal and volunteered for the gig given that he is a childless bachelor.


The hotel is not staffed. No housekeeping, no chef, just the odd security guard and cleaners who drop in once a month to clean the lobby.


It was just meant to be for two weeks, but that two weeks has turned into more than 14 months. But Mallia has become accustomed to it. 


“I got used to my room,” he said, “like in Shawshank Redemption. I’m content in my cell now.”


He spends his days sorting mail and taking a tour of the property, ensuring there are no leaks (security guards check for squatters). The most exciting task he has is to flush all the loos once a week. It takes about an hour and half to hit all the bathrooms in the 76-room hotel. 


Twice a month he gets to turn on all the showers and taps and lets them run for ten minutes. 


“Wear and tear actually keeps the building maintained better than abandoning it,” he said.


The clock is ticking for Mallia’s extended stay at the Chatwal as more Americans are being vaccinated and hotels begin to open, but Mallia is looking forward to returning home.



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Published: 31 May 2021

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