Days before the opening of The Montauk Beach House, Chris Jones is up to his elbows in details. The hands-on hotelier, best known as a partner at Montauk’s Solé East resorts, is taking rapid fire cellphone calls and doling out directions as he trots across a freshly laid lawn on the grounds of his newest Montauk oasis. He is wearing a faded Ronjo T-shirt, and save for the imposing tiki statue that guards the entrance to No. 50, the private beach club embedded in his newest hotel, that is the only vestige of the former that survives.
The days of the Ronjo—a palatial achievement when first opened in the 1960’s that degraded over decades of disrepair—are about to be over. Once the doors open, Jones hopes that his greatest challenge will be getting us used to saying “The Montauk Beach House.”
“There’s not a surface that hasn’t been completely redone,” he says as he sidesteps through a cluster of construction workers in one of the nearly finished stairwells. With an opening party scheduled for Thursday night and reservations on the book this weekend, the place is a frantic frenzy of last minute detail.
Overlooking the original but resurfaced pool, floor-to-ceiling guest room windows gleam. Jones is on his way to the second floor to show off a few of what he calls the “moonlight suites.” The rooms are swanky and spacious, with claw-footed bathtubs, cast iron and bronze accents, velvet drapes, and the finest in Egyptian cotton linen. With a price point based on Jones’ competitors—including Ruschmeyer’s, the Surf Lodge, and The Montauk Yacht Club, they start at around $400 per night.
“Each room is a bit different,” he explains, and of the more than 3,000 hotel rooms he has had a hand in designing, these are his proudest accomplishment.
On the street side of the hotel, guests can claim their own private beach. Each of the “whitewater garden” rooms boasts a 200-square-foot outdoor sand pit with an oversized daybed. On the interior, elaborate drape systems allow guests control of their people watching—and Jones has every intention of making this the place to watch and be watched this summer.
With an outdoor bar, day beds galore, and space for dancing, the grounds maintain an amphitheater feel. There is a pop-up shop, of course, and this season luxury knitwear by Minnie Rose will be the focus. The hotel lobby has an espresso bar, where outsiders are welcome to pop in for coffee, and light fare will be served courtesy of the Montauk Bake Shop.
At the epicenter of the project—both literally and figuratively—is the No. 50 Club. Jones insists he is not breaking the mold by incorporating a private beach club concept into a luxury hotel—it’s a decidedly European thing to do, and with his lilting British accent, he is decidedly European. According to Jones, it’s simply new to Montauk.
With an $1,100 price tag for a full 16-week season, club members get discount incentives on room rates and access to the pools, showers, towels, cabana service, and events. (A “locals discount” brings the price down to $750 for Montaukers.) The club’s moniker harkens to the original hotel’s Hawaiian inspired heritage, Hawaii being the 50th state to join the union.
Jones doesn’t spill specifics on the curated event series he has planned throughout the summer—a secondary passion of his that gave way to the epically planned but ultimately doomed MTK festival last summer, fashion shows, movie screenings, and live music are in store. Whether the locals will chomp on a $750 price tag to partake in such events remains to be seen.