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Rainbow Room soars again

An iconic restaurant aims to reclaim its glory.

In October, after a year of planning, eight months of construction and 1.7 million pieces  hauled by elevator, New York City’s Rainbow Room reopened on the 65th floor of Rockefeller Center, spiffed up and ready to party again. “In renovating the space, our overriding goals were to preserve ‘the room with a view’ and that sense of New York glamour,” says Michael Gabellini, architect on the project. Key to operator Tishman Speyer was creating a contemporary, more accessible restaurant; a destination for  New Yorkers and tourists alike. The space had been a private event venue for a decade before closing in 2009.

When Rainbow Room first opened in 1934, the two-story art deco showpiece with its sweeping views quickly became a glamorous nightspot for dining, dancing and entertainment. To reinvent if for the next 80 years, Tishman Speyer brought in an all-star team. In addition to Gabellini, executive chef Jonathan Wright developed menus with global and American influences for Sunday brunch and Monday night dinner, the only meals open to the public. Rainbow Room will be a private event space at other times, but SixtyFive, the adjacent upscale cocktail lounge, is open every weeknight.

No one will reveal the final price tag, but the team had to retain many interior-design elements, in accordance with the New York Landmarks Commission. “My vision was to burnish history and move it forward,” says Gabellini. No structural changes were made within the Rainbow Room, but the floors, walls and ceilings were demolished, rebuilt and replaced with materials that evoke the art deco era. Among the most dramatic new features are floor-to-ceiling windows that open up the panoramic view.

The landmark wood dance floor was restored by the same family that built the original. Other refurbished pieces include the bronze railings, wall sconces and crystal chandelier. State-of-the-art LED lights installed in the dome project different colors depending on the time of day and vibe, be it brunch or an elegant gala. Crystal window curtains refract the light to create shimmering rainbows throughout the space. “It’s a 21st century theater in the round with the feeling of an art deco ocean liner,” says Gabellini.


Concept: Rainbow Room

Location: New York City

Footprint: 8,500 square feet

Seating: 300 in Rainbow Room; 92 in SixtyFive (cocktail lounge/private room)

Key features: Floor-to-ceiling windows; crystal curtains; rotating dance floor; high-tech acoustic ceiling; wraparound terrace

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