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Hotel Bel-Air to close for two-year renovation

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

Comments () | Archives (14)

Reapply for their own jobs? I would just bet that there is no way the employees come back at their current wages. All too typical in modern day Corporate America and then Corporate America wonders why there is no loyalty... unreal.

The stars trash the rooms so badly that they are renovating again after only 3 years?
And people are losing their jobs?

Wow, the best will get better...didn't know that was possible! There is no way they would turn this place into something else, its just too legendary to take that chance. And if it has never been shut down for a full renovation in 65 years? Its time, too bad about the people though. Its a tough situation all around, there is no good time to close a hotel.

The question is does re-application mean just that, or does it mean first right of refusal? Sometimes articles don't spell things out exactly. I'd be interested in hearing what the employees were offered from their mouths. If it's first right of refusal, that means they get their jobs back, and should at the pay scale they left. If they have to re-apply, that means they may not get it, may not have any representation such as union, and definitely they won't have the same benefits. This puts the screws to them effectively as there's no way to fight a renovation.

Why don't they do what most every other hotel does and upgrade certain sections at a time? This allows the hotel to remain open and have most employees to keep their jobs. Sure, they'd have to lower rates during this timeframe, but the hotel doesn't shutter its doors for two years with a total loss of revenue.

Reapply again? Give me a break.

They are doing this to get rid of the union and stop the financial nightmare. Hopefully the Bev Hills hotel can capture some of the spill over and maybe break even while they update this property. Unions are turning hotels into havens for lazy people who want $40/hour to serve banquets while owners try to sell out world-class hotels for 6% margins.

These are strange numbers. Even at full occupancy and @ $300 per night (or 50% occupancy at $600 per) that's only $10 million per year. Add 50% to that for Restaurant-bar, boutique and spa services and you got a $15 million gross. Figure $20 million, tops. How can you make money at $67,000 revenue per employee per year (Microsoft is something like $350K per employee per year)? To be sure, many are employees are part-time but with debt service, the maintainance expense level, not to mention utilities, of the hotels it just doesn't seem like enough money. Am I missing something? Laundry services and hush money banquets?

I am so shocked and upset. Our wedding was to take place there on May of next year and about 2 months ago we had to put down our deposit. I just don't understand how they were ok to take our money, let us plan, get invitations, all surrounding what we thought our venue would be. I am wondering who else out there had a wedding or an event scheduled after September.

Anyone of you ever run a hotel? It is a massive undertaking. But a legenday hotel as it is needs modernization. After 65 years you need to get it fully up to tomorrow's standards and not those when horses were pulling carriages.
Be sure, once it is done it will be awesome and the service will be better. Heck, you will see everyone from Ritz to Four Seasons and St Regis lining up to take the management contract and keep it at 5 Star/Diamonds. You can also be sure, owners do not close a proeprty for a total renovation without a plan. They arent dumb, like many people might think. But, the Sultan of Brunei owns it. He is arguably the richest man in the world. So do you really think he is sweating over the loss of $XX in revenue per year? This is an investment for him. He will not suffer financially.

I am getting married at the Hotel Bel-Air in early September and was really upset to learn about this. We were looking forward to having our anniversaries there and absolutely love the place the way that it is. CH I am so sorry that you will not be able to have your wedding at the hotel in May...We will be one of the last couples to get married there before it is slosed/updated. I was wondering how they would handle the events that they had booked? So sad for the wonderful, gracious staff...

Does anyone know who is managing/performing the rennovations?

Can you replace The Great Gatsby with a book with
the same number of words in it? Can you replace
Duke Ellington with another piano player wearing
a tuxedo.? Can the Mona Lisa be moved aside for
a new picture of a woman who's kinda smiling?
This a a living work of art. A gem of elegance,
elan and efficiency unmatched by any place I've visited
in the world. Many of the Hotel Bel-Air's staff
have been with them for twenty or thirty years.
This is an exercise in madness.
Come on, LA, get in the game and save this place
On behalf of the swans and the Bel-Air cat
history needs you.
Franklin in Charleston, SC

My husband has worked for this hotel for 2 years and just months before Christmas he's told SORRY but your out of a job!!?? I have 3 kids to care for and with the economy the way it is how is he supposed to support a family now just because they want to make more money in the long run?? What are families supposed to do in the mean time? They own 5 star hotels all over the world and all they can say is sorry? How about setting the empolyees up with new jobs; they don't your need or want apologies they need job security. Long time employees have dedicated their lives 20, 30 years to this hotel and they get "SORRY". 2 months notice that's all that was given.


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