Omni Hotel expansion gives it 'whole new look'

September 25, 1990|By Edward Gunts

Baltimore's Omni Inner Harbor Hotel has gained two new restaurants, a multilevel bar, an expanded ballroom, a centralized gift shop and other revamped public spaces as part of a $10 million renovation that is nearing completion this fall.

The work has resulted in the creation of 80 to 90 jobs at the Omni, which has more than 500 employees in all.

But the greatest change may be that it has enabled the 702-room hotel at 101 W. Fayette St., the largest in the state, "to look and act like the largest hotel in the state," said general manager Joseph R. Kane.

Before the renovations began, the hotel had only one restaurant for its patrons and no lounge for after-work meetings. As a result of the changes, completed over the past six months, the hotel is able to address market niches that weren't very well covered before, Mr. Kane said.

"We really have re-created this hotel," he said. "It's a whole new look."

The restaurants that opened earlier this month are Jackie's Cafe, an informal cafe taking the place of the former Jacqueline's restaurant, and the Baltimore Grille, a steakhouse with an open "display kitchen" that allows patrons to watch as cooks prepare their meals. Also open is the Corner Bar, a 125-seat lounge at Hanover and Fayette streets.

Work is still under way on a new fire alarm and sprinkler system that will provide better protection than the city code requires, Mr. Kane said.

As part of the remodeling, the hotel's management and sales staffs were consolidated in offices on the Baltimore Street side of the building, a move that freed up 12 guest rooms previously used by the hotel's accounting department and others.

The hotel is owned by First Hotel Corp., a subsidiary of Westinghouse Credit Corp. of Pittsburgh. Beacon Hotel Corp. is the management company. Baltimore businessmen Henry Knott and John Paterakis are minority owners.

Mr. Kane said the hotel, like others in town, has begun to feel the effects of the nation's economic downturn.

"What we're finding is that instead of sending three people to a meeting, a company might send two, and instead of staying four days, they'll stay three." A booking from Camp LeJeune in North Carolina had to be canceled, he said, because most of the participants were sent to Saudi Arabia.

Despite the weakening economy and Mideast crisis, Mr. Kane said, he is looking forward to 1991, when the opening of the $35 million Marine Mammal Pavilion on Pier 4 is expected to draw more tourists to Baltimore and the Convention Center will host 22 citywide conventions, up from 17 this year.

The hotel will offer reduced room rates and other discounts through the first quarter of 1991 to encourage guests to see the improvements.

"We feel that in order for people to know what you've done, you have to entice them to come in," Mr. Kane said.

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