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St. Charles hotel closes, Drury lays off workers as virus rocks hospitality industry

St. Charles hotel closes, Drury lays off workers as virus rocks hospitality industry

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Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Charles

The 296-room Embassy Suites by Hilton next to the St. Charles Convention Center has shut down until at least April 1. (Image via Google).

ST. CHARLES — The Embassy Suites by Hilton, a 296-room hotel near the St. Charles Convention Center, has closed, one of many coronavirus casualties sure to hit the hotel industry.

“As a result of the health and financial crisis, and its impact on our business, we have been forced to suspend operations until further notice,” a recording on the hotel’s main line says.

Hotels have been crushed by the new coronavirus pandemic, and operators are laying off much of their staffs as occupancy plummets.

Drury Hotels, based in Des Peres, instituted layoffs and furloughs this week. According to documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, at least 200 were either furloughed or laid off out of just over 1,000 corporate employees: 12 laid off and 44 furloughed out of the 216 employees at the St. Louis corporate unit; 15 laid off and 16 furloughed out of 109 at the Cape Girardeau office; 14 laid off and five furloughed from the approximately 50-person supply unit; and 42 laid off and 60 furloughed out of 647 in the hotel management unit.

Drury didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Brentwood-based Equis Hotels CEO Mike Mullenix said last week that the company, which operates six hotels in St. Louis, had been forced to lay off over half of its employees. Without some sort of federal assistance, he feared “there won’t be any hotels for our employees to come back to in 90 days.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Association, which is lobbying President Donald Trump and Congress for hotel relief, estimated Monday that 44% of hotel jobs will be gone within weeks. In Missouri, that means about 17,000 of 39,000 industry jobs lost, and in Illinois, it’s 26,000 of the state’s 59,000 hotel jobs.

In order to stay solvent, hotel companies are seeking financial relief via loans or other assistance as part of the congressional stimulus bill.

The St. Louis metro area has about 10% of its workforce in leisure and hospitality jobs, the sector hardest hit by social distancing measures. That ratio is about the same as the national rate.

The phone recording at the Embassy Suites in St. Charles, owned by Atrium Hospitality of the Atlanta area, said the hotel is accepting reservations for April 1 and later, but that may change.

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