Inside the luxurious underground bunkers where the rich bug out

By | April 5, 2020

When the going gets tough, the rich get going … to luxurious underground bunkers. Suddenly, heading six feet under doesn’t sound so bad, especially when the new digs often include pre-stocked food and blast-proof doors.

Helicopters are on standby “if that moment comes,” says one bunker specialist, to whisk elites into subterranean palaces with below-ground swimming pools, tennis courts and gourmet food rations in spaces you’d never know were originally designed for the military, both American and Soviet.

If you’re not in the 1 percent, no problem, there are modest bunkers available, as well, and even some reasonably-priced getaways above ground.

Fast-talking entrepreneurs, boutique hotel owners and survivalists are hoping to profit from the coronavirus pandemic by giving people a route out of despair — and boredom — with varying degrees of success.

Real estate salesman Robert Vicino is literally sitting pretty when it comes to his business — selling underground bunkers from the Black Hills of South Dakota to a remote underground city in Rothenstein, Germany. Unlike the millennial owner of a Manhattan startup who had to pull the plug on his luxe, mask-free spa last week, Vicino says business is booming in what survivalists call the “bug-out” business.

His company, Vivos, also sells bunkers in Indiana and is planning new bunkers in Asia and Marbella, Spain. He said sales are up 400% this year although his cheaper properties (35,000 euros for a big bunker in South Dakota) are selling faster than the 2 million euros, five-star Vivos Europa One underground apartments carved into a German mountain, part of a facility originally used by the Soviets to store munitions in case they invaded western Europe.

Vicino has been at the doomsday game since 2007 and it’s paying off after a slight blip when a Mayan-predicted apocalypse in 2012 never materialized and he had to dump plans for a 5,000-person bunker in Atchison, Kansas.

Vicino’s secret is tailoring his business to both the middle class and high net worth, who fear societal collapse because of the coronavirus.

“All my customers know something bad could happen,” Vicino said. “The dominoes are falling. We could be a month away from a meltdown. What’s everyone going to do when they run out of food and money? It could get ugly. By that time, it’s too late to call me.”

People who don’t want anything as depressing as a bunker are burning up the phone lines of people like Curt Eilers, an Iowa real estate broker who owns three survivalist properties himself in California. He says people are searching for off-the-grid homes all over the country, some in places like Kentucky and Arkansas with up to 50 acres of land for less than $ 130,000.

Shorter, more upbeat getaways, are few but still possible. Most posh hotels have closed but West Hollywood’s Petit Ermitage is open for guests to “escape the ordinary.”  The hotel checks guest temperatures, has individual air conditioning units, allows only registered guests inside, asks them to stay six feet away from others and disinfects every 30 minutes.

Randall Hayward, owner of Taksu Spa, an exclusive retreat on Bali, has closed temporarily but has an extensive protocol in place once Taksu reopens, maybe even next month.

Guest temps are checked, but it doesn’t stop there. Taksu makes its own hand sanitizers. Closed spaces are ozonated every night. Staff use custom N95 masks made of local batik patterns. All cutlery is UV sterilized. Rooms have ionizing air purification AC units. Clothing is sprayed with hydrogen peroxide solutions that include citrus and tea tree nebulized oils. Linens are sterilized and kept in ozone storage rooms.

“In these scary times,” Hayward told the Post, “we are prepared.”

Living | New York Post