August 20, 2008 in Business

Vacancy at Ridpath as hotel closes doors

Employees lose jobs; owners hope to reopen as franchise
By The Spokesman-Review
 
File photo

The hotel, in 1952, opened circa 1900.
(Full-size photo)

Inside

Ridpath’s

piano stolen overnight/B3

In a move to stop financial losses at one of Spokane’s oldest hotels, owners of the Ridpath have shuttered the downtown business for at least four months and laid off most of the staff.

They hope to revamp the building and reopen the roughly 200-room hotel as a Clarion Suites franchise, said Douglas Da Silva, a managing member for owner 515 Washvada Investments LLC.

When the hotel reopens – possibly as soon as Dec. 31 – it might be without its longtime name, visible in large white letters on the roof of the 13-story building.

“Over the last, say, 20 years the property has been maintained at a less-than-appropriate standard, and I think the name is just beat up,” Da Silva said. “That’s probably a subject for discussion.”

Earlier this year, Da Silva, a Las Vegas hotelier who bought the Ridpath in September 2006, said owners were considering selling or closing it to stop losing money. The hotel, at 515 W. Sprague Ave., was on the market for $8.5 million last winter.

The hotel closed at 5 p.m. Monday, Da Silva said. He estimated 15 to 20 employees lost their jobs.

Meanwhile, owners have sold the hotel’s ground-floor club to a Spokane restaurant group that had been involved in a failed deal to purchase the top floors of the building to reopen a nightclub.

Improvements to the Ridpath could include renovating bathrooms and installing new elevators, but it’s unclear how much renovations would cost, Da Silva said.

A skeleton crew will maintain the hotel during the closure, he said.

“We think it’s going to take roughly four good months to get through it,” Da Silva said. “We thought that a New Year’s Eve opening would be appropriate.”

The Ridpath opened about 1900 and was the oldest continuously operating full-service hotel in Spokane, according to news reports.

Elvis Presley stayed there twice and part of the 1985 movie “Vision Quest” was filmed in the basement.

Over the years, it lost more than 100 hotel rooms. Da Silva sold portions of the hotel, including an older section on the east side. The remaining tower was built in 1950, according to Spokane County property records.

Affiliating with Clarion, a brand of Silver Spring, Md.-based Choice Hotels International Inc., would give the hotel access to Choice’s national reservation system, Da Silva said.

That would provide “at least an even playing field with some of the other chain hotels that are in the market.”

Da Silva’s boutique Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas is affiliated with Clarion, according to its Web site.

The owners’ financial condition is unclear. As of Aug. 2, an Artisan Hotel in downtown El Paso that Da Silva also purchased in 2006 remained closed, even after he reportedly spent $6 million on renovations there, according to the El Paso Times.

News of the closure surprised Harry Sladich, president of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, who said downtown needs the hotel rooms.

It could be realistic to plan a reopening in four months, said Eric Nagano, managing member of Spokane restaurant management and catering company Cuisine Northwest LLC, which had managed the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant and recently purchased the space as a condo for club Envy Ultra Lounge.

“We’ll see when it happens, though,” Nagano said. “Just overall, this industry is such a volatile industry as it is.”

Cuisine Northwest and other investors made a bid to purchase the top two floors of the hotel tower, including the former Ankeny’s restaurant and bar, with a goal of eventually buying the entire tower.

That deal fell through early this year when investors backed out, Nagano said.

The floors remain under contract with a different party, Da Silva said.

“It was just bad timing,” Nagano said.

Reach Parker Howell at (509) 459-5491 or parkerh@spokesman.com.

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