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Breakers Hotel Closing in Jolt for Long Beach

December 24, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN and TERRY SPENCER | Times Staff Writers

The majestic Breakers Hotel in downtown Long Beach will close its doors Jan. 2, costing 150 employees their jobs, at least temporarily, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The news, delivered quietly to employees Wednesday morning, surprised and saddened many in the city.

"That's terrible. What are you talking about?" said Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who represents the downtown district. "That's incredible."

Joseph F. Prevratil, president of Wrather Port Management Co, the firm that has managed the landmark hotel for the past year, said the hotel is a money loser that needs renovation and improvements to make it earthquake safe.

Hotel Up For Sale

The hotel's owner, Breakers Associates, has been trying to sell or refinance the building but "has not been successful in that effort," said Prevratil. He declined to say how much money the 62-year-old hotel, topped by a restaurant-bar overlooking the ocean, is losing or how much the renovations would cost.

Prevratil said he does not know what will happen with the building, but he added that announcement of the closing should not have surprised hotel employees, who knew the Breakers was for sale.

Yet, despite rumors that had been circulating among personnel, the news stunned many.

"They never told us anything," said Robert Ortiz, 30, banquet captain. "There's a wedding booked on Jan. 16. That's going to be sad.

. . . I've been calling this the last days of Pompeii."

Eric Dressner, 26, a security officer, said: "Well, I'm lucky. They're going to move me over to the Queen Mary. I think they should make the hotel an old folks home."

Wrather Port Properties Limited manages and operates the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose in Long Beach. Prevratil said Wrather will try to find jobs for all the employees at one of its other facilities. Hotel workers will find guests other accommodations in the area and attempt to relocate banquets and other events previously scheduled in the Breakers' ballroom or meeting rooms.

The hotel, which Prevratil said is usually at 50% capacity, has had a series of ups and downs through the years. The owners recently completed a three-year, $15-million restoration project.

But the hotel's 242 rooms have not yet been renovated and the building needs to be upgraded to meet the city's tough earthquake ordinance, which requires that all buildings either be made quake-safe by 1991 or torn down.

Built in 1925, the Breakers has survived a couple of bankruptcies and several owners. It has been used as a hotel, an American Red Cross relief headquarters and housing for senior citizens. Breakers Associates, a partnership whose principal associate is William Bloodgood, bought the building and operated it primarily as senior citizen housing until 1982, when the renovation began.

First Major Hotel

Historically, the hotel "marks a transition in Long Beach--when the city went from being a small community to a major seaside resort," local preservationist Rita Woodbury said. "This was the first major hotel built." During World War II, it was "THE place to go," Woodbury said.

Hotel guest Sally Vincent, of Van Nuys, said, "I think they should redo the rooms. They have the same faucets they had in the 1920s. But this is a nice hotel. I'm tired of the cold, stark, stained-glass hotels."

Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell, who said he often dines in the Breakers' Skyroom, agreed: "I'm disappointed. It's a beautiful structure. They did a beautiful job in restoring it."

Nancy Latimer, chairwoman of the city's Planning Commission, also expressed disappointment and noted this is the third landmark building in the city "to be in trouble."

"This is very sad news to me," Latimer said. "It's one of the most important historical buildings in Long Beach."

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