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Hotel Pere Marquette in Peoria, Illinois Closes its Doors - Sort Of

By John Sharp, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 03, 2011--PEORIA -- The 84-year-old Downtown hotel built in the Roaring '20s that once housed the infamous Shelton brothers, U.S. presidents, celebrities and entertainers went dark around noon Friday -- sort of.

With little fanfare, a few tears and some memories discussed among Peorians during the day, the Hotel Pere Marquette quit taking reservations on Friday, closing with a mere 29 guests Thursday night.

"It's very emotional," Joel Green, the hotel's director of sales, said Friday. She was one of three people who stayed at the hotel after its noon closing.

While no longer open for business, Kansas-based Innco Hospitality, the current owner of the hotel, will continue to staff the Downtown property with security and some staff who will make sure the entire property isn't completely vacated.

Telephone calls are being forwarded to the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The PACVB will be the hotel's contact point for "the next six months," according to Bob Marx, president/CEO of the organization.

"It could be anywhere from four to six months until the Marriott people take it over," Marx said. "Until Marriott International folks staff that or the regional office in Chicago takes a more aggressive position, we'll handle any phone inquiries. We won't be able to book anything. But we'll handle the message, if you will, on behalf of the hotel."

Marx said the PACVB has gotten inquiries about conventions related to the potential February 2013 reopening of the Pere Marquette into a 284-room Marriott project, but he can't guarantee anything until a closing on the property takes place. City Manager Patrick Urich said closing should occur between Christmas and New Year's.

Green said she is suggesting people looking for convention or hotel space in February 2013 look elsewhere.

A liquidation sale of the hotel's wares will likely take place in January, both Green and Marx confirmed. An exact date is unknown, but it's expected to be open to the public.

Green said the past couple of days have been unique. A group of past bartenders at the hotel met to have one final drink before it's renovated and completely transformed into a four-star Marriott complex. A Jimmy John's promotion allowed the hotel's staff to get free sandwiches and complimentary neck massages from a local chiropractor on Thursday.

"I realize it was just a promotion they do and we answered the phone to (win) that, but it was great to have it on the last day," Green said.

She said employees are not bitter with Innco Hospitality for closing the hotel and giving them about a three-week notice.

But, she said, the nearly 175 people who, as recently as late October, worked at the hotel, hold some ill feelings about how the closure announcement was handled.

Pere Marquette employees first learned of the hotel's closing from developer Gary Matthews during an Oct. 26 news conference. He said the hotel has to be shuttered so a complete renovation can take place.

"I don't think the city has understood what this whole thing has been like for the employees and management," Green said, referring to the city's role in financing about $29 million toward the Marriott project that will be connected via a skywalk to the Civic Center. "It's been a great and happy thing for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. But all of us thought we'd be part of that team and we're not. It's a bitter pill to swallow."

John Sharp can be reached at 686-3282 or jsharp@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSharp99.

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(c)2011 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

Visit the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) at www.PJStar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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