Hotel Casa 425 and lounge welcome guests again
by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org
Before March 2020 hit hotels and forced their temporary closure, Claremont’s Casa 425 + Lounge was forecast to have a “killer year,” according to Tara Naughtin Tabije, project manager and operations officer at Four Sisters Inn, the hotel’s parent company.
“We had an exceptional 2019 and it seemed like between the [college] campuses, tourism and just travel in the area, we really had seen an uptick of reservations,” Ms. Tabije said. “Our lounge stayed fairly busy throughout the holidays so it was good. Business was really good in the area pre-pandemic.”
But when the property group received notice they had to shut down some 19 hotels they owned due to COVID-19—including Claremont’s Hotel Casa 425—what followed was a whirlwind for them, Ms. Tabije said.
“I think a lot of us were like ‘Oh this isn’t going to come here. This is not going to affect us.’ But then it seemed to just…it felt like it happened overnight for us in Claremont,” Ms. Tabije said. “It was quite a challenge for us and it was a couple to a few months of really planning, of what’s really going on, what are the guidelines, can we reopen, when can we reopen.”
However, for Casa, it was not like flipping a switch and shutting their doors as some businesses did. Ms. Tabije explained that when it came to closing down the property, especially because of guests, there were a lot of moving parts in play.
“The immediate reaction was ‘we need to inform our current guests and our future guests.’ We let guests know they had to pack up and leave,” she said. “Some things were done immediately like sending staff home, calling guests and future guests to either put a hold on their reservations or cancel reservations.”
As the hotel emptied out and guests and prepared for closing, Ms. Tabije said one of the most difficult parts came when she and the Four Sisters Inn owners delivered the news to the staff that they were suspending operations.
“I think a lot of us were caught off guard. You have to deliver the message to the staff and then deal with all the questions and concerns that your staff have about being closed for a month to three months,” she said. “How do we communicate all this information to our staff and give them peace of mind that ‘yes we will open and we will stay in communication with them.’”
Big decisions also had to be weighed during the initial days of closing—which employees to keep, and which ones to furlough for the time being, according to Ms. Tabije.
“Who stays on to make sure the building is locked up and perishables are stored appropriately? Or things are kept frozen? Do we turn off services when we’re closed or do we keep them going?” she said. “As well as wrapping up the hotel and making sure everything is secure. You’re watching your finances when you’re closed in terms of utilities and any perishable items.”
“It was a crazy few days before we [Four Sisters Inn] shut each property, but you know it was definitely take each day as it comes,” Ms. Tabije said. “We really didn’t know what was really happening or what the rules were as they were changing every single day it seemed like.”
The shutdowns only affected Hotel Casa 425 until the last weekend of May, according to Ms. Tabije. However, the hotel’s conjoined bar area, Lounge 425, was not so lucky in the following months.
“The Lounge is a huge part of who we are…so for it to have shut down, not once but twice because of county and state restrictions, was a huge down for us unfortunately,” she said. “Without the lounge it’s kind of sad to see the courtyard unoccupied because that’s really what that space is for. It’s just a huge amenity for the community because of the outdoor space and the service we provide there as well as [to] our in-house guests.”
The lounge finally reopened on February 4 after Los Angeles County health officials lifted restrictions.
Though COVID disrupted the hotel’s business for about two months, guests didn’t lose their tempers or fight the accommodations Casa 425 had to put in place due to coronavirus restrictions.
“Guests aren’t really different from how they were before; if anything I think they’re more appreciative of us being open,” Ms. Tabije said. “Guests’ gratitude towards staff has been very positive and they’ve been very good to the staff, which is desperately needed because of all the policies and protocols that they have to follow.”
Ms. Tabije said hotel staff were also eager to return to their duties.
“We didn’t really lose a lot of team members when we reopened,” she said. “They came back to work and were eager to work and really that…I think it really shows how much they really loved the hotel and believe in it and wanted to come back to work.”
Ms. Tabije attributed the hotel’s successful navigation through the pandemic to the efforts of the Four Sisters Inn and the other hotel owners’ ability to navigate the COVID closures by working throughout the pandemic to secure funding and financial resources for their various properties.
“I think having the confidence from Four Sisters and the owners that we’ll get through this and hang tight really kept a positive light in people’s eyes,” she said. “And our team actually did come back.”
Currently, the hotel is taking reservations from new and returning guests. While masks and social distancing may be a different touch for them, Ms. Tabije said the Casa 425 staff is constantly working to ensure the property is sanitized at all times.
“Health guidelines have obviously added some extra steps in terms of cleanliness and staff protocols,” she said. “It’s not that things changed oh so much, but we’re really fine-tuning cleaning procedures. Taking more time to sanitize areas and wash hands in between transactions; all of that really has slowed down service, both at the front desk and in the lounge.”
Casa 425 is located at 425 West First Street. Booking and other information about the hotel and lounge can be found on their website at www.casa425.com, by phone at 909-624-2272 or by email at email@example.com.