|By Judy Peterson, Los Gatos Weekly-Times,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 02, 2012--The Toll House Hotel's new owner, MetWest Terra, took over operations a few weeks ago and promises to work with the community on issues that may arise.
It's expected that the hotel will remain the same, although there may be some minor changes that would be designed to "make the guest experience better," sales and marketing vice president Greg Hanss said.
"Almost all of the employees are being retained," he added. "The people are a big piece of the hotel, so working with the team is a big part of the transition."
The Toll House's operations came under scrutiny last year when the hotel's neighbors complained about noise generated by outdoor summer concerts not allowed under the hotel's conditional-use permit. The concerts, which were held in the Toll House's courtyard, were ultimately stopped.
The new operators, based in Jackson Hole, Wyo., say the courtyard may instead be used for dining. "There's a first impression to extend dining into the courtyard because people are naturally attracted to it," Hanss said. "I think it's a really beautiful environment that is underutilized."
Hanss added that "any changes we make will be smart ones." He also pledged to work with nearby residents. "One of our goals is to be a great neighbor and be a positive part of the community," Hanss said.
Along with the Toll House, MetWest Terra also purchased The Lodge at Tiburon from Larkspur Hotels. Other MetWest Terra properties include the
Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt., and the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa in Sausalito.
Hanss said the Toll House is the right-size property for MetWest Terra. "We're obviously increasing our collection in the Bay Area," he said. "One of the formulas for our company to look at is boutique hotel opportunities. If it's a featured property in a community, it's attractive to us."
Meanwhile, a big change has occurred just down Main Street at the Hotel Los Gatos. The Spa Elia closed on Dec. 21, with the hotel announcing that spa services will now be provided by The Spa Los Gatos at 100 S. Santa Cruz Ave.
Hotel Los Gatos manager Linda Apichell said the steam showers, locker room and saunas will remain in place and The Spa Los Gatos will send clinicians to the hotel to service clients. "It will be a private spa by appointment only," she said. "Guests will have total privacy when they're down there."
Other areas of the former Spa Elia will get new uses. "Part of what we're looking at is an expanded board room and an expanded fitness center," Apichell said. "Our corporate guests have been asking for that."
Apichell noted that the hotel's current meeting room set-up is inadequate. "We've turned down business for corporate meetings," she said. "On busy days we just don't have enough meeting rooms."
There is now a meeting room that seats 15 people and a ballroom that can be split into five salons, accommodating anywhere from 10 to 250 people, depending on the function.
Unfortunately, the closure of the Spa Elia means seven full-time and eight part-time employees were let go. Representatives from the state Employment Development Department and a city of San Jose unemployment specialist visited the hotel on Dec. 21 to meet with and counsel the laid-off employees on resumÃ¨ writing and other job seeking skills.
"We're doing what we can to help place them elsewhere," Apichell said.
(c)2012 the Los Gatos Weekly-Times (San Jose, Calif.)
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