Peabody Court, Conservatory to be sold to hotel chain

July 11, 1992|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

The Peabody Court Hotel, the lovingly restored inn and gourmet restaurant in Mount Vernon, is set to be sold along with its award-winning restaurant, The Conservatory, to a Washington-based hotel chain, the prospective buyer said yesterday.

Paul Whetsell, president of CapStar Hotels Inc., said that his company has an agreement in principle with NationsBank of Charlotte, N.C., to acquire the property and that he expects to close the deal around Sept. 1. Representatives of the bank could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Whetsell declined to reveal a purchase price, but a former employee who left the hotel's employ this week said the amount was $3.1 million. The former employee asked not to be identified.

If that figure is accurate, it would represent an enormous comedown from the estimated $12 million hotel developers Morton Sarubin and Georges and Danielle Mosse spent to renovate the former apartment building at 612 Cathedral St. before it opened in 1985.

Mr. Sarubin, who bought out the Mosses in 1987, sold the hotel in February 1991 to Metropolitan Commercial Properties Inc. of Baltimore for $8.1 million in a deal financed by Sovran Bank/Maryland, which subsequently was acquired by NCNB Corp., which is now known as NationsBank. Metropolitan is still the owner of record, but the firm is now controlled by NationsBank.

Mr. Whetsell said no decision had been made on what changes might be made to the menu at the Conservatory, one of two restaurants in Baltimore to win a coveted four-diamond rating from the American Automobile Association.

Change is inevitable, however, because the restaurant's French-trained chef, Michael Gettier, quit his job this week after a disagreement with the new management company about the menu.

Mr. Gettier said yesterday that he was told the restaurant would shift from its classic French cuisine to a "midlevel American" menu. However, Robert Roop, the new acting general manager, denied any such intention, saying the new management intended only a re-evaluation of the present menu.

Several other high-level employees of the hotel and restaurant also left this week, including the hotel's general manager and catering director and the Conservatory's maitre d'hotel.

Mr. Whetsell, who disclaimed any knowledge of personnel or menu changes made by the present owners, said that if CapStar completes the transaction, it intends "to run a first-class luxury hotel with a 'signature' first-class restaurant."

Mr. Whetsell said his company had considerable experience running luxury hotels and restaurants. He said CapStar owns such notable properties as Latham hotels in Philadelphia and Washington; the Driskill Inn in Austin, Texas; and the Santa Barbara Inn in Santa Barbara, Calif. The chain's 35 hotels also include Hiltons, Sheratons, Holiday Inns and Ramadas.

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