Langham hotel in Pasadena to reopen after laying off 472 workers – Daily News

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The upscale Langham Huntington Pasadena is preparing to reopen Thursday, July 30 after shutting down in April and laying off 472 workers the following month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operations won’t resume at full capacity, however.

“When we reopen we won’t be in full operation,” Langham spokeswoman Susan Williger said. “Most of our restaurants will remain closed and the spa and fitness center will be closed. The Terrace restaurant will be open with limited hours, and the Hideaway grab-and-go will also be open for limited hours — but just for hotel guests.”

Research from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. indicates the hotel industry’s recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels could take until 2023 or later. Investors have similar predictions based on the sluggish performance of U.S. lodging real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Unavoidable cuts

In a May notice sent to the state Employment Development Department, Robin Gamino, the Langham’s human resources director, said the layoffs were unavoidable.

The “speed and vast reach” of the coronavirus outbreak, combined with the declaration of a national emergency and ongoing travel limitations resulted in “a drastic impact on our business,” he said.

“As the hotel opened to new reservations, it discovered there are very few reservations being made by travelers over the coming months and that it is now expected the occupancy levels for this hotel will continue to remain significantly below normal levels,” Gamino said.

The layoffs became effective May 26, according to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice.

A variety of jobs affected

The cuts impacted a variety of positions, including 146 full-time banquet employees and nearly 100 steward workers, as well as pastry cooks, health club employees, dining room servers and a variety of other positions.

Williger didn’t indicate if or when some of the Langham’s laid-off employees might return to work.

Helping laid-off workers

The city of Pasadena recently approved an ordinance that requires hotels to give preference to workers who were laid off during the pandemic before taking on new hires when business picks up. The ordinance also applies to new owners who might assume control of hotels.

“The whole leisure and visitor industry has really been impacted by this pandemic,” said Eric Dyshart, the city’s economic development manager. “Very few people are taking weekend trips or business trips.”

Hotel occupancy rates in Pasadena typically run 85% to 90%, he said, but during the COVID-19 outbreak that has dipped as low as 10%.

“I’m pretty sure the hotels are still at just 20% to 25%,” Dyshart said. “Now they at least have a few people staying in rooms. But this pandemic is so uncertain and that also impacts conventions and big gatherings. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Langham employees who lost their jobs were required to sign a termination/nondisclosure agreement that said their health and insurance coverage would end May 31. They were informed they could continue their health group plan coverage under COBRA, but the cost of maintaining benefits under that plan is significantly more expensive.

A long recovery

Many U.S. hotels are still closed — especially luxury hotels. In early May, occupancy was less than 15 percent for luxury hotels and around 40 percent for economy, McKinsey reported.

Looking ahead, McKinsey expects economy hotels to have the fastest return to pre-pandemic levels, while upscale hotels will see the slowest recovery.

“That’s in part because economy hotels are better able to tap segments of demand that remain relatively healthy despite travel restrictions, including truck drivers and extended-stay guests,” the company said. “Operating economics are also significant. Economy hotels can stay open at lower occupancy rates than other chain scales.”

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