The Fasano flagship in São Paulo is an unforgettable hotel. Its entryway, just off the luxury retail corridor of Rua Oscar Freire, is completely sheathed in up-lit wood paneling that shimmers like gold. Inside, masculine leather chairs and a geometric lattice ceiling create a uniquely Brazilian expression of mid-century design. Bossa Nova plays in the bar where dressed-up mixologists shake caipirinhas with stylish swagger. It’s no wonder that decades into its existence, Fasano’s glamorous reputation remains untouchable in Brazil.

Now all of that is coming to New York, where the brand has opened its first North American outpost. But chances are, you won’t be able to see any of it for yourself.

Here, in a genteel mid-rise on Fifth Avenue between 62nd and 63rd streets, Fasano is ditching its winning formula. There are no towering golden letters proclaiming that you have arrived. Silent is any chatter from executives striking deals and shoppers comparing their five-figure hauls. Gone are the passersby waltzing in for a quick drink before dinner. And no, it’s not because of Covid-19.

Instead, the entryway bears a discreet numeric address on a traditional residential awning (815 Fifth Avenue), blending in with the luxury co-ops, including a former Rockefeller apartment, on either side. The lobby is minimalist, with space for just two tobacco-leather armchairs across from a marble-topped check-in desk. And the only people allowed in are members of an exclusive new Fasano club, hand-picked by the brand’s corporate team and an army of public relations experts.

Fasano Fifth Avenue is such a radical departure from the brand’s roots, it might not even be considered a hotel at all. The 14-story building’s certificate of occupancy (PDF) allows for residential condominiums and non-transient hotel use, according to NYC Building Code 2014, limiting Fasano’s legal ability to make its accommodations available for bookings of less than 30 days.

The Most Exclusive Hotel in New York
“We are seeing that more and more, our clients want to stay in boutique and small properties and also ones that are very exclusive,” says Jose Auriemo Neto, chairman of Fasano’s parent company JHSF Participações SA, which operates high-end retail and restaurants throughout Brazil.

In order to stay in any of the hotel’s seven clubhouse suites and four apartment-like duplexes, all designed by French architect Thierry Despont, you have to either be a Fasano club member or be invited by one.

A fact sheet and press release provided by the company in December had it operating as a standard hotel, with starting rates from $1,000 a night. On a tour of the property in mid-February, general manager Andrea Natal—formerly of the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro—said that clubhouse suites with Central Park views will cost roughly $7,000 on a nightly basis during the soft opening. (That’s seven times as expensive as a one-bedroom suite at the Mark, a famously pricey luxury hotel nearby.)

Later, when asked how those rates would legally comply with the building’s certificate of occupancy, Neto offered the following statement: “Our property is a private club that complies with zoning laws. It is a private membership club, by invitation only. Any information about membership and the usage of the building is going to be determined when membership is registered.”

Since that conversation, Fasano has listed on sites such as StreetEasy and Christie’s Real Estate for “both long- and short-term stays starting at 30 days.” Its website calls it a “boutique hotel.”

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