Go ‘backstage’ at new boutique hotel in Tel Aviv

The latest Atlas family property is the Backstage Hotel which, like the Cinema, took an old entertainment center and turned it into a funky location.

 THE BACKSTAGE is a worthy addition to the Atlas chain. (photo credit: NATHAN DVIR)
THE BACKSTAGE is a worthy addition to the Atlas chain.
(photo credit: NATHAN DVIR)

The Atlas Hotel chain has developed a knack for designing its Tel Aviv properties as one-of-a-kind experiences.

The Fabric Hotel on Nahalat Binyamin has an urban party vibe that features an “all-day bar.”

The Artist Hotel showcases paintings and digital works from the Doron Sebbag Collection throughout the property.

Atlas transformed the old Eden Cinema on Dizengoff Square into a boutique hotel, complete with a free nightly rooftop happy hour and buffet filling enough to ward one off dinner.

The latest property to join the Atlas family is the Backstage Hotel which, like the Cinema, took an old entertainment center – in this case the Ohel stage theater – and turned it into a funky location, located on Beilinson Street, the other side of Dizengoff Square from the Cinema Hotel.

 IT’S ‘SHOWTIME’ at the new Backstage Hotel in Tel Aviv (credit: BRIAN BLUM) IT’S ‘SHOWTIME’ at the new Backstage Hotel in Tel Aviv (credit: BRIAN BLUM)

Opened just a few weeks ago, at the beginning of July, the 48-room Backstage is filled with delightful theatrical touches that make up for the small but tastefully appointed rooms.

The mirrors in the bathroom, for example, are styled to resemble those used by make-up artists prior to the start of a play. The seats at the desk in the guest rooms look like the old-fashioned trunks that once transported costumes. Exposed whitewashed brick augments the backstage ambience. In the four-story, open lobby are spotlights taken from a theater (though they’re shiny and new enough to not be from the original Ohel Theater).

The second floor has a bit of added fun – a photo booth where you can dress up in antique clothes and hats (provided), then get a strip of three black and white photos to take home as a souvenir. Unlike the photo booths of yore, where you took the pictures and hoped for the best, this booth is fully digital, so you can approve your pictures before you commit, just like on your phone.

Even the elevator plays a part – or in this case – a tune: At each stop, visitors are treated to a pre-recorded audio flourish that sounds like the opening to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” followed by applause, laughter or ooh’s and ah’s. If you use the stairs, there are posters on every floor from the original Ohel.

All through the hotel – in the rooms, in the dining area, at the reception desk – are quotes from famous directors and writers (Shakespeare is particularly prominent). The dining area is more like a living room filled with comfy couches rather than the typical tables and chairs. Each sitting area is either dedicated to “Shakespeare” (salt and pepper shakers designed like chess pieces, napkins and utensils inside a “fake” book, an “Excalibur” sword) or “Cabaret” (check out the high heels used to house the sugar and salt). A red velvet curtain adorns the long wall of the lobby proclaiming in unsubtle terms, “It’s showtime!”

The food

BECAUSE THE dining area is small, the Backstage has taken a unique approach to serving. A small area on one side of the space stocks breads, jams and desserts. You order your main course from the waiter (there’s much more than standard scrambled or omelets; I had fried eggs on top of French toast). The cheeses, fish and veggies are then placed in a three-level tray at your table, the kind that’s typically employed for traditional English Tea.

There are nontheatrical touches too: Home-made chocolate and marshmallows when you check in, Arugot organic green tea shampoo and body wash in the shower.

The original Ohel Theater opened in 1940 and continued to operate until it was finally shut in 1969. That said, the one thing you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out is where the original theater ends and where the hotel begins – the renovation was so complete that comparing what you see with the historical pictures on the walls is an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

Outside, it’s clearer, with the hotel maintaining the theater’s original International (Bauhaus) style with a convex front and a white exterior.

There are several room types. The premium rooms are larger than the standard ones, which are more substantial than the tiny “Picolo” room. For a splurge, there are also suites, duplexes (the bed is upstairs in the loft but the bathroom is downstairs) and four garden rooms. One caveat: avoid the rooms from 1 to 3 (i.e., 201-203, 301-303) which face a construction site. The workers start making noise well before 7 a.m. – not what you want when you’re on vacation!

The hotel is not 100% accessible. Because the building was designated for preservation, Atlas built an elevator where it could but couldn’t get it all the way to the fifth floor. It does reach a sweet rooftop terrace on the fourth level, which is where we sipped the free cocktails the Backstage provides every day between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The hotel makes its own bitters and vermouth; in the future, the chain hopes to expand the cocktail bar into a destination for visitors not staying at the hotel itself.

Nearby Dizengoff Street itself has had an up and down existence – it was originally the place to be seen in Tel Aviv but lost some of its luster over the years to neighborhoods deemed hipper such as Shenkin Street and Florentine. Now it’s back in the trendy spot, as witnessed by the overflowing cafés and bars. It’s also a 10-minute walk to the beach (good thing, since there’s no pool at the hotel).

All that makes the Backstage is a worthy addition to the Atlas boutique family, to central Tel Aviv and to the world of preservation with style.

The writer was a guest of the hotel.