Belvedere Hotel closes: 'It's sad, but this is it'

January 02, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Suzie Hong sat at a table in her empty Suzie's Cozy Corner restaurant wondering aloud what might happen to her business in 1991.

"I had a good year" in 1990, she said yesterday of her nook in the Belvedere Hotel's lower lobby, but prospects for the restaurant appeared dim after the last guests had packed and left with the hotel's closing yesterday.

"I've been the only breakfast place for the hotel guests for 10 years. But not anymore.

"I hope someone will buy the Belvedere soon and open it up again as a hotel. It's too bad I'm not rich enough to buy the building. That's what I'd do. I like it here."

Upstairs in the white-marbled main lobby, Michael Hollis checked out the Belvedere's last hotel guests from New Year's Eve celebrations in the Owl Bar and the 13th Floor Lounge, and told a telephone caller he didn't know if the building's racquetball courts would be open anymore.

"This is my last day here, and the cleaning crews are coming in tomorrow," said Hollis, a former Belvedere sales rep who worked there in a temporary catch-all job for the past two months. "It's sad, but this is it."

Officially, the once-majestic Belvedere closed its doors as a hotel yesterday, the victim of an auction sale last week that was prompted by a year and a half of proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court here.

Meritor Bank of Philadelphia, the Belvedere's main creditor, bought the 87-year-old building for $3.5 million and intends to sell it, but as yet has not announced a buyer.

As of yesterday, the hotel's famous Owl Bar, once a prominent hangout for international celebrities and Baltimore cogniscenti, was closed. So was the John Eager Howard Room with its luxurious meals, and the 13th Floor Lounge that sported hors d'oeuvres, drinks and dancing.

Hollis and front desk fill-in Charles Manzer said about 20 to 24 people -- mainly cooks, waiters and waitresses, and the two of them -- lost their jobs at the Belvedere with the new year.

Manzer said the hotel rented 48 rooms and suites for New Year's Eve, and that "a lot of people, old, regular customers and some younger people, too, came down to be part of the closing."

"I'm disappointed, really," Manzer said of the hotel's shutdown. "I really wanted to see it progress forward, but I don't think that's going to happen."

Charles Gueli, agent for a court-appointed receiver that managed the building, emphasized in an earlier interview that all the shops in the lower lobby will remain open indefinitely. They include Suzie's Cozy Corner, the Nichi Bei Kai restaurant, a dry cleaner's and several specialty shops.

Gueli also said tenants in about 20 rented apartments and several offices in the building will not be affected by the sale or the hotel closure until Meritor finds a buyer, closes a deal and the new owner decides a use for the building.

"The only things that are shut down are the hotel's restaurants," which were operated by a bankruptcy trustee, Gueli said.

"The rest of the building is going to go on as usual. What happens really depends on the next month or two."

Amid that uncertainty, Hong said, she is thankful for her regular customers from the uptown neighborhood around the hotel, and for a spate of new business from a large advertising agency that recently opened across the street.

"I hope they keep coming," Hong said. "That's going to help.

"You can't just take up all this equipment that I have here and move it somewhere. It takes time to build a business."

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