BEVERLY HILLS, CA — The luxe Luxe Rodeo Drive hotel has closed, a casualty of a pandemic that is likely to put more hotels out of business, it was reported Monday.
The 86-room, four-star hotel, which for 27 years shared a city block with such high-end outlets as Cartier and Harry Winston, notified its workers last week that it would permanently cease operations because of the financial effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday morning.
“Please accept my sincerest gratitude for your service and loyalty and know that this decision was not made lightly,” Efrem Harkham, the chief executive of Luxe Hotels, which owns or operates three other hotels in Los Angeles and New York, told workers in a letter cited by The Times.
The Luxe Rodeo Drive is the first high-end hotel in the Los Angeles area to go out of business because of the pandemic, and industry experts point to an unusually high loan delinquency rate among hotel borrowers as a sign that more closures are likely to follow.
“We know there is a tsunami outside. We know it’s going to hit the beach. We just don’t know when,” Donald Wise, a commercial real estate expert and co-founder and senior managing director at Turnbull Capital Group, told The Times.
The steep decline in tourism and business travel has devastated the hotel industry. In April, the city of Beverly Hills convened a COVID-19 Business Recovery Taskforce that comprised a Tourism/Hospitality/Restaurants Subcommittee. The subcommittee, which comprised Peninsula Beverly Hills Managing Director Offer Nissenbaum and Beverly Hilton Manager Sandy Murphy, helped the City Council pass some hotel-friendly legislation, like deferring transient occupancy tax payment for hotels, allowing some businesses to operate outdoors, and starting a messaging campaign that Beverly Hills goes above and beyond to ensure that guests are safe from COVID.
But the picture is still grim: in April, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported that occupancy rates in Los Angeles fell 68.5 percent in one week, to just 21.6 percent.
“We anticipate many hotels won’t survive,” said Heather Rozman, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles. “Industry data shows 1 in 4 properties already are struggling to pay mortgages, risking foreclosure.”
Wise said that hotels catering to conventions and business travelers are more at risk of closing than hotels located in popular, car-accessible vacation spots, like nearby Santa Monica.
Aron Harkham, president of Luxe Hotels and son of Efrem Harkham, said in an email that the Rodeo Drive location “got caught up with the bad timing of the global travel market” by launching a full remodel just before the pandemic struck. Given the drop in demand for hotel rooms, he said Luxe Hotels is now considering “alternative options” for the property, which is owned by the Harkham family under a limited partnership.
High-end hotels have also closed in other parts of the country, including the 44-story Hilton Times Square hotel in New York City, which went out of business this month.
Ashford Hospitality recently turned over the keys to its newly purchased Embassy Suites in Midtown Manhattan to its lender after the real estate investment trust fell behind on debt payments, according to CNBC.
The owner of Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton hotel was sued by Wells Fargo last month, accused of defaulting on a $333.2 million loan. The lawsuit asks the court to appoint a receiver for hotel operations, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Many hotels have not yet closed because the federal Paycheck Protection Program is holding them over, but that has an expiration date.
— City News Service contributed to this report.