There isn’t a hotel as closely identified with Hollywood as the Chateau Marmont, which is probably why people have been talking a lot about its future amid the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.
Rumors abound lately that the 90-year-old hotel and restaurant, still a favorite haunt of celebrities and industry types the world over, has been so pummeled by the coronavirus that it won’t be able to reopen, and its owner, Andre Balazs, might be forced to sell. The hotel laid off nearly its entire staff (242 people) the same day California and Los Angeles went into lockdown and closed all nonessential business. Employees received no severance and the layoffs are listed as “permanent” in a required disclosure filed with the state. Other hotels that enacted layoffs listed them as “temporary,” like the newer but very popular San Vicente Bungalows in L.A., which has laid off all of its 144 staffers, and The Peninsula in New York, which has laid off 460 people.
But, the Chateau’s quick move to layoff staff without pay is thought to have saved the company a considerable amount of money, leaving it able to wait out the pandemic for a time, and eventually to start moving toward a fuller reopening as the state looks to ease restrictions in the coming weeks.
A company representative could not be reached for comment.
When the hotel will enact a full reopening is unclear, as it is for many businesses, but sources have said tentative planning is looking at increasing staff by July or August. The plan depends on not only state and local Los Angeles mandates, but also sentiment among consumers. It may take a while for people to feel comfortable enough to visit a hotel and the Chateau has long-maintained a bit of grime about it, typically hidden by very dim lighting in the restaurant, lounge and hallways, which previously only added to its historic charm.
Whenever the Chateau can get up and running again, AB Properties, Balazs’ company that owns the Chateau and other properties, like The Mercer, has committed to rehiring laid off staff as it is able, starting with longest-serving employees first. The rehiring of laid off staff is now required for the hotel industry, as Los Angeles on Wednesday adopted an ordinance preventing such businesses from going out and hiring new, possibly cheaper, labor. Staff of the Chateau had recently been organizing a unionization effort as well.
Technically, the Chateau is not entirely closed as of now. There are still said to be a couple of “long-term” residents living in the hotel, and a very limited amount of staff has been kept on to serve them while abiding by social distancing guidelines. Bungalows have also been made available to doctors of L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who are treating patients with the coronavirus and might not be able to return home.
For the majority of staff that is no longer employed, the Chateau started a fund for employees, which will be distributed equally among them, although it’s unclear if any payments have been made. In addition to Balazs’ $100,000 donation, the GoFundMe page has raised nearly $65,000 from public donations, including from actors like Sam Rockwell, Patricia Clarkcson, Walton Goggins and Griffin Dunn, producer and writer Ryan Murphy, director Henry-Alex Rubin and MAC creative director Drew Elliott. A number of donations have been kept anonymous. The hotel has also, for the first time, put its gift shop online, with sales going directly into the fund. In total, the efforts are said to have raised about $300,000 for the employee fund.
However, another Balazs property, Sunset Beach in Shelter Island, N.Y., will not reopen this year. The property is seasonal, only opening in the spring and summer months, and is set up in such a way that “social distancing” among staff, so far required in most states for businesses to reopen as the coronavirus is still spreading, is not thought to be feasible. Being forced to skip “the season” this year, as late May to early October is known for businesses in the Hamptons, is a likely outcome for many hotels in the popular vacation spot.
Editor’s Note: This article was briefly amended after its initial publication to reflect L.A.’s new rehiring requirement and that laid off hotel staff had been attempting to unionize.
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