|By Lori Weisberg, The San Diego
Union-TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
September 22, 2009 - Hoping to keep up with the Joneses in Mission Valley, the Handlery Hotel and Resort is closing for three months to undertake a nearly $4 million renovation, its first complete makeover in more than 50 years.
General Manager Peter M. Lassalette acknowledged that without a major upgrade of the property, the Handlery would no longer be able to compete with other area hotels that have undergone more recent renovations.
"If we didn't renovate now, we'd probably be closing the doors in two or three years to do it anyway," he said. "If we're running the same rates as the Crowne Plaza near us and we're not renovated, I'd rather stay at the Crowne Plaza.
"We can't stay competitive. We're losing too much business."
The hotel management informed 174 of its 210 employees that effective Nov. 23, they would be temporarily laid off and could regain their jobs once the hotel reopens around Feb. 10. The hotel's sales team and engineering staff will remain employed throughout.
Lassalette said he had hoped to stage the renovation in phases and remain open, but it proved impossible. What would normally be a six-month undertaking is being compressed into three months, he said.
All 217 guest rooms will be renovated in a tropical, "Tommy Bahama" motif and will include new 37-inch flat-screen televisions. The lobby area and meeting and banquet areas will also be refurbished.
Over the years since it opened in 1954, the Handlery has had a number of improvements, the most recent in 2002, but never has it been entirely made over.
Like most hotels, the Handlery has seen a sharp drop-off in business and revenue during a recession that has led to cutbacks in both leisure and business travel.
Revenue is down about 30 percent from last year, Lassalette said. The fall and winter months are normally much slower, so it made sense to begin the work later this year, he added.
"Our fourth quarter historically is our worst. We've never made money during the fourth quarter," Lassalette said. "And a lot of the hotels downtown are running the same rates we're running in the valley for group business. I've lost group business to the U.S. Grant for $89 a night.
"I'll never have this opportunity again."
Lori Weisberg: (619) 293-2251;
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