Honey hospitality: Jersey City Hyatt's rooftop bee hive is first to buzz in N.J.
JERSEY CITY — Several weeks ago, the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City began fielding inquiries from curious neighbors in high-rise office towers overlooking the hotel.
What, exactly, is with the giant bee?
The size of a shed, the yellow and black insect had been painted on an industrial air conditioning unit on the hotel’s fifth-floor rooftop.
For the Hyatt, the artwork is no mere whimsical decoration. It’s a symbol of the newest residents.
Some 36,000 honeybees now call the Hyatt their home in the latest twist in urban beekeeping: hotels with hives. It’s a trend that’s creating buzz far and wide as high-end hotels from California to Canada welcome honeybees to generate some good will — and dollars — by going greener and by incorporating the honey at their in-house restaurants, a move that appeals to people who prefer locally produced food.
In recent years, hotels in Florida, Georgia, Utah, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Toronto have gotten into the bee biz. Hives also have been established atop posh lodging in Paris and Berlin.
The Hyatt’s honeybees, provided by North Caldwell beekeeper Joseph Lelinho, are the first in New Jersey to make a hotel rooftop their abode, said state apiarist Tim Schuler, the top bee expert at the Department of Agriculture.
Honey from Lelinho’s rooftop hives will be ready to harvest in September or October. In total, the bees will produce about 100 pounds of honey a year, enough to meet nearly all of the honey needs for the Hyatt’s restaurant, Vu, and its companion lounge.
"We are really looking forward to tasting that," hotel general manager Terry Dunbar said.
It’s a sweet arrangement Lelinho hopes will generate some positive PR for bees and dispel myths that they’re aggressive insects.
"They’re very docile, as you can see," he said Monday, holding a frame covered with bees while standing on the roof with Hyatt staff, state Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
"They’re not very interested in us," Lelinho said. "They’re interested in their jobs."
The hives are housed in a pair of wooden structures, each about the size of three milk crates stacked atop of one another. Holes at the bottom allow the bees to come and go as they please.
The new setting is as much a boon to Jersey City as it is to the Hyatt. Lelinho said bees typically pollinate plants in a two-mile radius, an area that includes the greenery at Liberty State Park and Hamilton Park.
The idea for the hives emerged about six months ago, when Hyatt executive chef Cathy Kearney called Lelinho to ask about using local honey in her kitchen.
A month later, Kearney began incorporating four types of honey from Lelinho’s bees at the hotel’s breakfast buffet.
A member of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, Lelinho owns Hilltop Honey and periodically gets calls from restaurants, but he said many of the businesses "don’t really want good quality honey, and they don’t want to pay for it." Kearney had a more attractive proposition.
"She wasn’t going to be burying it in some dish — she wanted to feature it," Lelinho said. "That’s when I was really excited about getting this thing going."
The discussion then evolved to housing bees at the hotel. Earlier this month, Lelinho moved the two hives — one from Montclair and one from his own backyard in North Caldwell — to the fifth-floor rooftop, which covers part of the Hyatt. The remainder of the hotel is nine stories.
While she awaits her first harvest from the Hyatt’s bees, Kearney continues to expand offerings with honey purchased from Lelinho’s other hives. The restaurant now carries dishes like chipotle and honey-glazed Amish chicken breast and salmon ceviche with creamed honey as well as seasonal drinks like honey lemonade and honey horchata.
"I love honey and I love the idea of using honey" from local beehives, Kearney said.
And the feedback so far from hotel guests who have sampled the fare incorporating the honey?
Re: Urban Beekeeping: Hotels with Hives | Check out the Jersey City Hyatt's Rooftop B
Thanks for this. So many people in my area are shocked to hear about urban beekeeping, and are unwilling to see the benefits to both the owners of the buildings and the community as a whole. Maybe articles like this will start to change people's minds.