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Hotel Bel-Air to close for two-year renovation

August 4, 2009 | 11:10 am

After more than 60 years of catering to the rich and famous, the legendary Hotel Bel-Air will close its doors at the end of September for the first time so that work can begin on a two-year, multimillion-dollar renovation. At least 300 employees will also be laid off, a spokeswoman for the hotel said.

Renovation is expected to be completed by 2011. It will include the construction of 12 new villas, a new spa with seven treatment rooms and upgrading of each of the hotel's 91 guestrooms. Newer televisions, WiFi service and security upgrades will also be among the improvements, said Alisha Mahon, spokeswoman for the hotel.

The last major renovation at the hotel, which included $20 million in upgrades, was in 2006.

Mahon said the 300 employees who will be laid off were informed Friday. The hotel is offering workers career counseling services including interview techniques and job search assistance, Mahon said. The employees also will be welcome to reapply for jobs after the renovation is complete.

Hotel Bel-Air was built in 1946 when Joseph Drown, a hotel entrepreneur from Texas, purchased 18 acres from Alphonso E. Bell, creator of Bel-Air Estates, converting several land offices into 62 guestrooms.

The hotel has hosted such Hollywood royalty as Grace Kelly, Jackie Gleason, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, according to the hotel’s website, and continues to attract celebrities including Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman and Hillary Swank, among others.

The hotel is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency and managed by the Dorchester Collection, which also manages the Beverly Hills Hotel.

-- Ruben Vives