Day: November 24, 2020

The Axton Group Closes Acquisition of the Renaissance Austin Hotel for $70 Million

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — An affiliate of The Axton Group (“Axton”) today announced the firm has closed on the acquisition of the Renaissance Austin Hotel for $70 million. The 492-room, full-service hotel in north Austin is one of the city’s largest hotels, with spacious guest rooms including 88 suites, many upscale amenities, and spectacular views of the Texas Hill Country and the downtown Austin skyline. The hotel features 77,600 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event facilities.

Like all hotels across the country, Renaissance Austin Hotel’s occupancy is currently low as a result of COVID-19. The city of Austin is one of the fastest growing in the country, with booming growth in the technology, medical and biotech sectors, and other major tenants and employers.

Peter Oberndorf, Founder and CEO of Axton, said, “This investment is representative of the cyclical nature of hotel assets, which have been even more acutely impacted in this current environment than previous economic cycles given the dynamics of the pandemic. It is now our responsibility to reposition and enhance this property, guiding it on a path of recovery and ultimately leaving it in a better place than we entered. We look forward to making this vision a reality. We are seeking additional opportunities where we believe we can acquire assets and add value at an attractive entry basis, in robust markets with excellent long-term fundamentals and promising growth prospects.”

Austin has major and expanding tenants including Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, 3M, University of Texas and the Texas State Capital government. The city is also a leading tourist destination historically hosting over 27 million visitors each year.

Andrew Slusser, Principal at Axton, said, “Our purchase of the Renaissance Austin Hotel reflects the reduced capital availability in the hospitality industry. We see great value at our point of entry and expect the property to return to and grow its pre-COVID earnings over the coming years.”

Axton is planning renovations to the hotel’s public spaces and meeting rooms that will position the property as a premier venue for the meeting and event business that the firm anticipates will gradually return in the post-COVID era. The immediate renovations call for significant improvements to the hotel entrance; a redesign of the lobby and the majestic atrium; creating more revenue-generating spaces, while maintaining functionality for group events, with the goal of offering a more attractive and modern look and feel for guests. Planned meeting and banquet space renovations will enhance the property and enable it to be more competitive with newer product as the market recovers.

The hotel will continue to be managed by Marriott under the Renaissance Brand.

The purchase price of the hotel represents more than a 50% discount to replacement cost. Axton is actively evaluating opportunistic investments across the U.S. from sellers seeking liquidity. The firm has a contrarian view that select properties in strong markets with high return on investment repositioning dynamics will allow for a

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Vacation Rental in Hawaii with Airbnb, Expedia Group

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell today signed two memoranda of understanding (MOU) between the City and County of Honolulu and short-term vacation rental platforms Airbnb and Expedia Group, parent company to vacation rental website Vrbo. The MOU is designed to help Honolulu officials effectively track and regulate vacation rentals, ensuring the community can receive the full tax and tourism benefits vacation rentals provide, while controlling the spread of illegal vacation rentals. These new memoranda of understanding help facilitate effective enforcement of vacation rental laws, allowing responsible vacation rental operators to advertise with online travel platforms.

“We know there are bad actors out there, and this will help us crack down on them. While this is not a panacea, it’s a step forward,” said Mayor Caldwell. “I also want to thank Airbnb and Expedia for stepping up to the table and help to provide solutions for legal short-term rentals on O‘ahu. For our residents who depend on this income, we want to provide an avenue for people to list their rentals in a legal, and transparent manner. This collaboration will also provide a step forward for effective enforcement of illegal vacation rentals, and ensures that our neighborhoods remain neighborhoods for local families.”

This agreement will help the City and County of Honolulu enforce vacation rental laws, reducing the number of illegal rental operations. It will allow responsible vacation rental operators to advertise their homes on online travel platforms, while requiring platforms to regularly provide the City and County with information on its vacation rentals, and in turn the City and County of Honolulu will be able to request a permanent delisting of illegal vacation rentals.

The two participating short term rental platforms have agreed to provide the City and County of Honolulu with detailed information sufficient to accurately identify the vacation rental unit and identify if it is permitted under the law of the City and County of Honolulu.

“This pandemic has highlighted just how important it is that cities, communities and industry work together on effective, long-term solutions,” said Amanda Pedigo, vice president of government affairs at Expedia Group. “Today’s agreement will help responsible vacation rental owners and managers stay in compliance with local laws and provide the City and County with insight into the local vacation rental market. Expedia Group thanks Mayor Caldwell and his team for their collaboration and leadership. We are thrilled to be part of an agreement that will benefit the people of Honolulu as the City and County work towards economic recovery.”

“As the City works to build back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, short-term rentals will continue to be a vital source of supplemental income for local residents and revenue to support the local visitor industry,” said Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb Regional Policy Lead. “We are grateful to Mayor Caldwell and his team for working with us on an agreement that preserves the benefits of short-term rentals for residents and the local economy, while providing the City the tools it needs to help enforce

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Broken finger to fake snow, Chevy Chases dishes on ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’


Photographer Amy Haehl made Christmas movie magic when she recreated scenes from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” with adorable babies.


Spoiler alert — all that snow isn’t real.

Chevy Chase says of all the questions he gets about the now-classic holiday comedy “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” surprisingly the white powdery surroundings top the list.

“The answer, of course, is no. I hate to say it, but the very first thing we shot was the tree, that was snow and we did get Randy (Quaid) and me on a hill that was in Colorado and I did have to go down this damn trail they built for me. It was scary, but it was fun,” he recalls.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) goes all out for the holiday in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” (Photo: WARNER BROS.)

 “But that was the first couple of days. The rest of the time we just made it look like snow around the house and stuff.”

More: Duncan Sheik: New album spins tale from ‘Barely Breathing’ to Broadway

What was real about the movie?

The legendary actor’s reactions in the infamous Christmas lights scene, where Chase’s character Clark Griswold gets so frustrated he resorts to hitting the decorations around him. 

The problem is he whacked one character — “that wasn’t in the script, but I was so angry I did it” — so hard it broke his finger.

“Oh boy did that hurt,” he said. “I thought it might melt or something, but no, it was a good, hard plastic.”

“I just went on with the scene,” he said. 


“These things happen. You have to be strong.” 

Chevy Chase attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza, in New York in Feb. 15, 2015. (Photo: AP)

Chase and Beverly D’Angelo (Ellen Griswold) are hosting an online salute to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” on Saturday, Nov. 28. Tickets, $25, are available through New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The pair will share behind-the-scenes stories and memories, as well as take part in a live audience question-and-answer session.

More: Virtual programming a lifeline, but NJ arts remain in dire straits

Chase says he’s looking forward to the trip down memory lane even though it will be held virtually this year, enjoying in-person events every holiday season.

“When I’m on stage there with the audience, it’s usually about 3,000 people or whatever, and I’m loving it because it’s very rare that a guy that makes movies or TV shows ever gets to see his audience,” he said.

He says he even enjoys the “wise guys” who shout remarks from the seats.

“I can take anything and I can give it back better,” he said. 


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Chase says he never expected the 1989 film to attain the holiday tradition status that it has.

“One always hopes,” he said. “I never come away from something like ‘we’ve got a hit’ but I always give it my best shot and I can think

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Can your boss make you use sick leave or vacation time for COVID?

Only certain employers are required to give sick time under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — You go to work. You wear your mask. You wait away from others and you wash your hands. You still get COVID or a coworker does and you’re at risk. Can your employer require you to use your sick leave or vacation time? Yes and no.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act or FFCRA requires only certain employers are required to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded medical leave due to COVID-19.

Covered employers are public or private employers with fewer than 500 employees and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt. This means employers with 51 to 499 employees are covered under this special sick leave, but the rest are not.

“The government thought employers who had more than 500 employees would provide sick leave to their employees without facing hardship.  The government wanted those large employers to do the right thing, whether they do, that’s up to them,” said Nicole Patino, an attorney at The Law Office of Fred T. Hamlet.

A viewer asked 2WTK this week:
Please look into employees being sent home for COVID issues and not being paid!!!!!! Or being made to use vacation time.

Patino says if the business is closed for cleaning due to COVID the employer may be able to require the employee to use their vacation time or unpaid time.   

In North Carolina, if a facility is closed, let’s say due to bad weather, employees who are not salary would not be entitled to pay under the law.

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Xenia Hotels & Resorts Completes Dispositions Of Hotel Commonwealth And Renaissance Austin Hotel

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Xenia Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: XHR) (“Xenia” or the “Company”) today announced it has completed the previously announced dispositions of the 245-room Hotel Commonwealth in Boston, Massachusetts for $113.0 million, or approximately $461,000 per key, and the 492-room Renaissance Austin Hotel in Austin, Texas for $70.0 million, or approximately $142,000 per key. In addition to the sale proceeds, the Company retained a total of $6.6 million in cash that was held in the properties’ FF&E reserves.

“We are pleased to have completed both of these transactions in an efficient manner,” commented Marcel Verbaas, Xenia’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Year to date, we have now sold four hotels for nearly $400 million. These dispositions have allowed us to efficiently raise a significant amount of capital at a superior cost to other alternatives. Additionally, we have successfully increased our balance sheet flexibility to help position the Company to be opportunistic as the recovery takes hold.”

The sale price for Hotel Commonwealth represented an 11.8x multiple on the hotel’s 2019 Hotel EBITDA, while the Renaissance Austin’s sale price represented a 6.8x multiple on its 2019 Hotel EBITDA. Including the dispositions of Residence Inn Boston Cambridge and Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, which were both completed in October, the combined sale prices of the four properties sold by the Company in 2020 represented an approximately 10x multiple on 2019 Hotel EBITDA.

“Our high-quality portfolio has afforded us the opportunity to create meaningful additional liquidity and balance sheet flexibility as the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted our Company and the lodging industry as a whole,” continued Mr. Verbaas. “The sale of Hotel Commonwealth at a highly attractive valuation, particularly given the current uncertain operating environment, is representative of the value embedded in our portfolio. Meanwhile, the sale price for Renaissance Austin reflects its dependence on corporate and group demand which have been severely affected by the pandemic, as well as the hotel’s substantial near-term capital needs and its location in a market where a significant number of higher-quality and better-located hotels have opened in recent years. Having completed the most recent renovations to the hotel’s guest rooms and the majority of its public and meeting space almost 8 years ago, we believe the sale of this non-strategic hotel, which achieved the second-lowest RevPAR in our portfolio in 2019, was the most prudent course of action at this time.  With our recently completed dispositions and additional balance sheet activity, we believe we have taken the right steps during this pandemic to position the Company for future growth.”

Proceeds from the sales will be utilized to repay borrowings under the Company’s line of credit and for general corporate purposes.

About Xenia Hotels & Resorts, Inc.
Xenia Hotels & Resorts, Inc. is a self-advised and self-administered REIT that invests in uniquely positioned luxury and upper upscale hotels and resorts, with a focus on the top 25 U.S. lodging markets as well as key

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Jersey Shore Family Vacation’s Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino announced he and wife Lauren are having a baby

Mike and Lauren Sorrentino during an episode of Jersey Shore Family Vacation
Mike and Lauren Sorrentino announce they are expecting a baby in May 2021. Pic credit: MTV

It looks like the Jersey Shore family is growing by one more as Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, and his wife, Lauren announced they are expecting a baby in May 2021.

The Instagram announcement had the words “Baby Sorrentino May 2021” written in flour next to Christmas tree cookie cutters. Lauren captioned the photo with the words, “Our biggest blessing is on it’s way.”

Mike’s Jersey Shore roommates were quick to comment with their excitement for the couple.

Pauly “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio commented, “Now that’s a situation my dude!!!!”

Vinny Guadagnino posted, “Errrhhhhh meerrrrr gerrrrrddddd!!!!”

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Even Snooki, who did not film with the cast this season, left a congratulatory message and said, “LOVE YOU BOTH soooo Soooo excited for you!”

Mike and Lauren’s journey

Mike and Lauren have been married for two years this month, and have been vocal about their desire to have a baby.

Just last week during the Season 4 premiere, Mike and Lauren met with a fertility doctor.

Lauren revealed the couple had become pregnant right after Mike returned from prison, but it, unfortunately, ended in miscarriage.

Mike explained during a confessional interview that having a child with Lauren was on his bucket list, and said he was desperate to become a father.

Two new additions to the Shore family

Mike and Lauren’s child will not be the only new addition to the Shore Family.  Their announcement comes weeks after co-star Deena Cortese announced she was expecting her second child with her husband, Chris Buckner.

Deena’s pregnancy was also announced on Instagram and was followed by the news she was having another boy after hosting a Halloween themed gender reveal party.

In the preview of future episodes, Deena is shown announcing her pregnancy to her roommates by holding a towel that read “I’m pregnant.”

The Jersey Shore cast is continuing to grow their families, and the dynamics have changed quite a bit since they started 10 years ago. Long nights of partying are now being replaced with family dinners and diaper changes.

The new season of Jersey Shore Family Vacation filmed the cast along with their significant others and immediate family members, which will allow fans to see a different side of their Jersey Shore favorites.

Mike and Lauren have yet to announce the gender of their baby. Their pregnancy journey may play out as the new season of Jersey Shore Family Vacation continues.

Jersey Shore Family Vacation airs Thursdays at 8/7c on MTV.



Maggie Michaels
Maggie is a freelance writer. The self-proclaimed “reality TV junkie” started her addiction at 14 years old and has been hooked ever since. Her favorite… read more
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Covid-19 Live Updates: Thanksgiving Travel Drops as Americans Rethink Rituals

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Americans have agonized over Thanksgiving this year, weighing skyrocketing case numbers and blunt warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against the need, after a grim and worrying year, to gather with family for a traditional, carbohydrate-laden ritual.

Around 27 percent of Americans plan to dine with people outside their household, according to interviews conducted by the global data-and-survey firm Dynata at the request of The New York Times.

Views on whether to risk Thanksgiving gatherings appear to track closely with political views, with respondents identifying as Democrats far less likely to be planning a multihousehold holiday.

Megan Baldwin, 42, had planned to drive from New York to Montana to be with her parents, but last week, she canceled her plans.

“I thought I would get tested and take all the precautions to be safe, but how could I risk giving it to my parents, who are in their 70s?” she said, adding that they were not happy with the decision.

“All they want is to see their grandkids,” she said, “but I couldn’t forgive myself if we got them sick. It’s not worth it.”

Others decided to take the plunge, concluding that the emotional boost of being together outweighed the risk of becoming infected.

“We all agreed that we need this — we need to be together during this crazy, lonely time, and we are just going to be careful and hope that we will all be OK,” said Martha Dillon, who will converge with relatives from four different states on her childhood home in Kentucky.

Thanksgiving travel is clearly down compared with 2019.

The AAA has forecast a 10 percent overall decline in Thanksgiving travel compared with last year, the largest year-on-year drop since the recession of 2008. But the change is far smaller, around 4.3 percent, for those traveling by car, who make up a huge majority of those who plan to travel — roughly 47.8 million people.

About 917,000 people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration on Monday, less than half of the number seen on the same day in 2019, according to federal data published on Tuesday.

Airlines are struggling from a dramatic decline in demand that has forced them to drop flights and make big capacity cuts, said Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an industry trade group. “Currently, cancelations are spiking, and carriers are burning $180 million in cash every day just to stay operating,” she said. “The economic impact on U.S. airlines, their employees, travelers and the shipping public is staggering.”

Demand for travel by train is down more sharply, at about 20 percent of what it was last year, said Jason Abrams, a spokesman for Amtrak.

Susan Katz, 73, said she canceled plans

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Florida man inappropriately touched girl on vacation in Pensacola

Colin Warren-Hicks, Pensacola News Journal
Published 4:38 p.m. CT Nov. 24, 2020


A Florida man is accused of inappropriately touching a 15-year-old girl and sending her sexually explicit Snapchat messages during a vacation in Pensacola over the summer.

Rame Baeten, 37, of New Port Richey, was arrested Monday and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct on a person under 16 years old, online solicitation of a minor, illegal use of a two-way communications device and four counts of transmission of material harmful to a minor.

County records indicate he was booked into the Escambia County Jail with a $160,000 bond and was released about 40 minutes later.

According to an arrest report from the Florida Department of Corrections, a 15-year-old told authorities Baeten touched her buttocks and sent her messages via Snapchat while she was vacationing with him and family in Pensacola on Aug. 6-10.

“The victim stated Baeten grabbed her butt at least once a day, every day they were in Pensacola,” the report stated. “She said it was not ‘playful touching’ and was done so intentionally.”

The messages Baeten sent the girl included statements such as “Are you a banana? Because I wanna peel ur clothes off” and Baeten describing the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the minor, the report stated.  

Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8680.

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Was Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ Giancola throwing shade as Season 4 of Jersey Shore Family Vacation premiered?

Sammi 'Sweetheart' Giancola's recent post has fans wondering if she's throwing shade at former
Did Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola throw shade at former castmates? Pic credit: MTV

Is Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola throwing shade at her former co-stars?

It’s looking that way based on a post she shared ahead of the Jersey Shore Family Vacation premiere.

Sammy was one of the original cast members of Jersey Shore when the popular show premiered on MTV several years ago.

Her tumultuous relationship with Ronnie Ortiz-Magro was a continuous storyline for many seasons, but she chose to end her run as a reality TV personality even before Jersey Shore ended.

Her castmates have gone on to star in their own spinoff shows, both individually and as a group.

Over the past few years, we’ve been able to follow the lives of the Jersey Shore alums on Jersey Shore Family Vacation.

Most recently the fourth seasoned premiered on MTV, but a quote from Sammi has some fans wondering if she’s throwing shade at her former co-stars.

Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ shares obscure IG post

The 33-year-old shared a recent post on her Instagram page that raised a few eyebrows.

The brunette beauty posted a quote that has people wondering if it was targeted at the Jersey Shore Family Vacation stars.

The quote in question reads, “Notes to self: Don’t seek to be relevant or liked, seek to be undeniable,” she posted on Thursday, November 19. “Seek to be compassionate. Seek integrity. Seek humility. Seek light.”

While Sammi certainly didn’t mention anyone in the post, the timing may seem questionable.

The message was shared on Instagram on the same day that Season 4 of Jersey Shore Family Vacation premiered.

And of course, quite a few fans in the comment section attributed the quote to have some sort of subliminal meaning to the Jersey Shore cast.

Jersey Shore Family Vacation kicks off with drama

Meanwhile, the show’s premiere brought its own share of drama among the cast members.

The main source of contention among the group stems from Angelina Pivarnick’s wedding after Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, and Deena Cortese gave a cringe-worthy speech during the reception.

Instead of heartfelt words to the bride, the women opted to roast her instead.

They found it funny, but Angelina did not find humor in the situation, and it has since caused a rift between the newlywed and her castmates.

During the first episode of Season 4, we saw the aftermath of the wedding drama as Mike Sorrentino tried to mediate the situation.

So far, Pivarnick is still on the outs with her co-stars and after getting lots of backlash for their behavior, the women are upset with Angelina as well.

As the season continues to play out, viewers will see if, and how, the castmates are able to put their differences aside and mend their friendship.

Jersey Shore Family Vacation airs Thursdays at 8/7c on MTV.


Alicea James
Alicea has an obsession for reality TV and pop culture, and has contributed to various magazines, websites, blogs
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Madison Beach Hotel Makes Merry With A Host of Holiday Experience

Press release from Madison Beach Hotel:

On Fridays and Saturdays in December, hotel guests will receive socially distanced greetings upon check-in with hot apple cider and hot cocoa in the lobby from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Experience the Magic of Madison on December 5 and 6 with Fire & Ice Cocktails and Cocoa On The Beach. Open to all, Madison Beach Hotel will host socially distanced seating at our firepit, hot cocktails, music, and s’mores. Bring a blanket to stay toasty. Weather permitting.

Santa Claus will join us on The Dunes for socially distanced photo opportunities December 5 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Madison Beach Hotel welcomes you to stop by this holiday season and snap photos featuring Long Island Sound as a backdrop. Throughout December, look for “photo spot” signs to create picture perfect images – by The Dunes, by the beach fence, and on the porch. Tag us in your photos #MadisonBeachHotel #MagicofMadison @MadisonBeachHotel and share these breathtaking vistas.

Enjoy Holiday Brunch on Sundays in December from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Wharf is also now accepting reservations for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day Brunch, each special day featuring a merry menu of holiday favorites. Reserve your spot online or call for reservations. Indoor and outdoor dining is available.

Finally, the hotel is offering Holiday Gift Cards once again this year. From December 4th through 24th, purchase $100 in gift cards and receive a bonus $20 gift card. Visit

Please note that masks are mandated for all staff and patrons, in accordance with state regulations and Hilton mandates to ensure consistent safety. The hotel is providing masks for guests that arrive without facial coverings.

The hotel has fully implemented Hilton’s CleanStay program with focus on extra sanitization of 10 high-touch areas in guestrooms, elimination of multi-use products in-room, sealed and sanitized items for guest use, and increased frequency of cleaning all public space areas, including elevators and lobby.

REME HALO® air purification technology has been installed in The Wharf Restaurant and banquet event space for enhanced indoor dining safety.

Madison Beach Hotel is located at 94 West Wharf Road, Madison, Connecticut. For more information and to check availability for your upcoming event, please call our sales office 203-361-9345 or visit Madison Beach Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. For more information on Curio Collection by Hilton, please visit

This press release was produced by Madison Beach Hotel. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

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