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It's Checkout Time for the Ambassador

October 04, 1988|JACK JONES | Times Staff Writer

The historic Ambassador Hotel, home of the Coconut Grove, where the rich and famous once congregated, will shut its doors Jan. 3 while its owners continue to seek a buyer, it was disclosed Monday.

Notices of the impending closure were given to about 200 employees and to proprietors of about a dozen shops on what hotel spokeswoman Margaret Burk called "a very sad day for us and for all of Southern California."

Guest rooms in the main building on the valuable 23.5-acre site at Wilshire Boulevard and Alexandria Avenue have been dark for about a year and a half because Los Angeles city fire inspectors ordered installation of a new sprinkler system. With the hotel already on the block, the owners were unwilling to go to that expense, Burk said.

Rental of bungalows has continued, however. The owners also have continued to operate the pool and tennis courts as well as public rooms for parties, dances and meetings.

In addition, Burk said, "We're busier than any place else in town for movie location work."

Attorney Richard Volpert, who represents the J. Myer Schine family trusts that own the Ambassador, said the venerable 500-room hotel is being closed "for economic reasons only." He added, "We're not happy to do it, but there are only so many years you can operate at a loss."

He could not say how much the owners were losing on the operation each month, but said they "are involved in negotiations now with several entities with what I would regard as serious (purchase) offers."

Offer Doesn't Materialize

A report in August of last year that a San Francisco investors' group was willing to pay nearly $50 million never really became a hard offer, Volpert said.

The owners had signed an agreement with the preservationist Los Angeles Conservancy not to demolish the hotel for a year while a buyer willing to refurbish and save it was being sought. That agreement, Volpert pointed out, has expired. However, he said, the prospective sale is not affected by the Schine family's agreement not to demolish the hotel until plans for redevelopment of the property are approved by the City Council.

"That still stands," he said, indicating that any buyer will have to comply.

City Councilman Nate Holden, in whose district the Ambassador stands, said he understands the owners expect to sell the property "before the first of the year" and that they plan to keep up appearances in the meantime "by keeping the grass maintained and making it look like somebody lives there."

"Everybody's sick about it," Burk said. "We have third generations coming here for their graduations. The Ambassador is known all over the world."

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