One lone guest sauntered into the lobby of the Gramercy Hotel on Scott Circle in the District, oblivious to the empty room-key boxes and lack of air conditioning in the hotel, which closed yesterday after 24 years of business.
Unperturbed at being told that the hotel was closed and that his reservation had been transferred to the Park Terrace Hotel a block away, he made the journey with the help of a no-longer-employed hotel worker who offered to carry his bags anyway. About 150 guests who had already checked into the Gramercy or had reservations have been relocated to other area hotels in the last week, employes said.
The 350-room hotel at 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW was a victim of increased competition from new and renovated hotels in the District and what some sources said was a too-expensive lease agreement on the building.
The hotel has suffered from low occupancy for years and has been at a disadvantage recently in a Washington market that has thousands of new hotel rooms. The 10-story white brick hotel, which opened in 1963, has never been fully renovated, according to long-time employes. To stay competitive, most hotels undergo refurbishing about every seven years.
Personnel managers from about 10 local hotels interviewed the 100 or so employes of the Gramercy yesterday. With a shortage of service workers in the area, several said they thought Gramercy workers should have little trouble finding other hotel jobs.
One employe said she was concerned that many of the hotel's older employes -- some of whom have worked there for 20 years or more -- would have difficulty finding work.
The Gramercy's building and land is owned by a group of private investors who built the hotel for $7 million in 1963. Charles E. Smith Cos. is one of the investors and acts as manager for the group. The hotel is leased to American Realty Trust, a Dallas real estate investment company, and managed by SCM Management Corp. of Memphis.
About 45 workers gathered in the hotel's deserted bar yesterday and voted to accept SCM's offer of severance pay that will amount to between $150 and $1,400, depending on length of service. Ron Richardson, secretary and treasurer of Local 25 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employes Union, which represents the hotel's employes, said the management company's offer was contingent on the employes' agreement to give up their right to be recalled to work should another company reopen the hotel.
Employes voted to accept the severance and to send a letter to both SCM and American Realty Trust criticizing them for their "shabby" treatment of employes and notifying the companies that they intend to protest if a new hotel company begins operation on the site without recalling Gramercy workers, he said.
Several workers said they were particularly angry because of a memo the hotel manager posted in February saying that if the hotel changed hands, "you will be informed in plenty of time to make whatever decision you have to make." Employes were informed the hotel was closing on Monday.
Officials of both SCM and American Realty Trust declined to comment on the employe's complaints or their plans for the hotel. However, an official of American Realty said that several groups have expressed interest in leasing the hotel.