NORTHAMPTON — The Hotel Northampton has shut down until February — laying off most of its 30 or so remaining staffers — due to COVID-19 and the continuing punishment it’s inflicting on the travel industry.
The 106-room hotel, which opened in 1927, will be quiet at a time of year when it normally would have been booked for holiday parties, as well as during the generally slow month of January. But all those events, as well as most holiday travel, fell victim to the pandemic.
“COVID has taken a toll on every business,” said general manger Jeffrey Hoess-Brooks on Monday as he supervised the hotel’s shutdown process. “Just try to look at every angle as two where you can cut any expense during this closure time.”
When fully operating, the hotel has 75 to 80 employees.
The hotel, which announced its decision to the public on Monday, is referring potential guests to the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Conz Street, also owned by Mansour Ghalibaf.
Hoess-Brooks said the plan is to reopen in February. By then, he hopes, the coronavirus pandemic will have eased as well as the travel restrictions. Also, the Five Colleges will be, he hopes, reopening then bring families to the area.
Smith College, located just a few blocks away, plans to welcome as many as 1,830 students to campus for the spring semester which begins Feb. 15.
Hotel Northampton also has events – weddings, banquets, and the like, — booked in 2021, Hoess-Brooks said. Opening in February means the hotel will be able to host those events, many of which were already been rescheduled from pandemic-ravaged 2020 into 2021.
“It’s very hard But we are doing this so we can come back in February. Strong as ever,” Hoess-Brooks said.
Besides the 106 guest rooms, the hotel has two restaurants — Wiggins Tavern and the Coolidge Park Café – a banquet hall that seats as many as 200 people. It has other smaller, function room as well.
Hoess-Brooks said there will be some staff at the hotel 24 hours a day and seven days a week to care for the property.
The hotel is traditionally the site of the midnight ball drop on New Year’s Eve for First Night Northampton. That will be a virtual event this year due to the 10 p.m. state imposed COVID curfew.
The hotel shut down for more than a month in the spring, when the state first started imposing shutdowns aimed at arresting the spread of the virus, Hoess-Brooks said.
Nationally, 71% of hotel operators said in November they won’t make it another six months without further federal assistance given current and projected travel demand, and 77% of hotels report they will be forced to lay off more workers. That is according to a survey released by American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“Without further government assistance (i.e. second PPP loan, expansion of Main Street Lending Program), nearly half (47%) of respondents indicated they would be forced to close hotels,” the organization said n a news release. “More than one-third of hotels will be facing bankruptcy or be forced to sell by the end of 2020.”
In Northampton, mainstay Packard’s bar and restaurant is closed until at April. Northampton’s Bistro Les Gras also shut down for the winter.
Area hotels have cut back, eliminated services and the developers of one new hotel, planned for the York State Jail site in Springfield, pulled the plug on construction plans.
Across the street from the Hotel Northampton, Silverscape Designs jewelry store is having a going-out-of-business sale and continues to try to sell its historic former bank building.