Resort Revved Up For Facelift

Resort Revved Up For Facelift

It won’t be the Concord Resort Hotel we once knew (Jewish through and through) but it will still serve kosher blintzes and sour cream. The new owners of the Concord Resort Hotel insist there will still be a Jewish ambiance when the hotel, one of the largest in the world. It reopens the main building Oct.1 after a $40 million to $50 million renovation.

A kosher 300-seat dairy restaurant, called the Spa Restaurant, will be one of five restaurants at the hotel, according to Louis Tallarini, executive vice president of Value Investors, Inc., the real estate company of Joseph Murphy. Murphy’s Concord Associates bought the hotel for $10.25 million at a bankruptcy auction last week in White Plains.

There are also plans for the entire hotel to be koshered for Passover next year.

"This is a market that needs to be served," said Tallarini."ìIt has been very important to the hotel for years. … We have the ability, if the demand is there, to deliver 3,000 or more kosher meals at each sitting." For each of the Jewish holidays, he said, religious services (featuring a choir) will be conducted as in the past. For Sukkot, Tallarini said he planned to have three sukkahs large enough to accommodate 1,100 guests per meal.

He said no decision had been made whether to serve just glatt meat during the holidays or to have a kosher dining room and a separate glatt dining room, as the Concord used to have.

Tallarini observed that the hotel, which for 61 years was owned by the same family, could not survive on just a Jewish crowd. So the hotel, which will become the Sheraton Concord Resort Hotel and Convention Center, will have a non-kosher full-service, upscale coffee shop and three other non-kosher restaurants.

Guests would have the option of eating from one to three meals a day and could chose to eat at any restaurant, Tallarini noted.

The hotel, which closed its doors last November after operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for more than a year, will seek to attract an upscale crowd: business travelers, conventioneers, outdoor enthusiasts and leisure travelers. "This is the largest, most affluent market in the world," Tallarini said. "Over time, prices will go up to justify the renovation. There will also be a higher level of service and attention to detail, whether it will be in service or in room upkeep, like new towels."

The average room rate at the old hotel, including three meals a day, was $165 per night. The newly renovated hotel’s average rate is expected to be about $145 per night, without meals.

Although the main hotel will not open until Oct. 1, Tallarini said a 42-room hotel at the Concord’s famous Monster Golf Course will open April 1. He said the new hotel will continue to maintain the Concord’s two 18-hole and one nine-hole golf courses and may even add another course in the future. The hotel has 1,710 acres, 1,200 of which are undeveloped.

The hotel also plans to have 40 tennis courts, three upgraded swimming pools and a myriad of other sports and social activities.

When the hotel opens its main building Oct. 1, it will open with 570 rooms. Another 520 rooms will open Dec. 1, he added.

Guests will still find that the hotel’s trademark grand staircase, but little else will be the same. "You’re going to find a completely refitted hotel," said Tallarini, "minus about 120 older rooms we’re going to knock down. We will refurbish the common areas and each room: from the shower to the curtains and the fixtures. Everything will be new."

He said the restaurants will be located on the first and second floors and that the lobby will be reconfigured to accommodate customer circulation.

"The desk of the [old] hotel was developed 45 years ago," said Tallarini, "before the Towers wing and the 200 wing were built. The hotel was built in seven or eight stages. The accounting department was one-eighth of a mile from the payroll department."

The old hotel generated about $30 million in business; Tallarini said he envisions the hotel doing $75 million to $80 million in gross sales in three years. To accomplish that, he said the hotel’s occupancy is expected to triple. Before it closed, the Concord was operating with a 25 percent occupancy rate.

A total of 1,500 jobs is expected to be generated to handle the increased occupancy, he noted.

After Grossingers was sold in the 1980s, the Concord tried to pick up the crown as king of the Borscht Belt. But critics said its owners never put money into the building, trying to live instead on its past glory. The newest part of the hotel, the Towers, was built in 1977.

Guests last Passover, many of whom had been coming for years, spoke openly of the deterioration. They pointed to holes in the curtain on the night club stage and to torn chairs. Some noted that the would-be new owners had already begun putting some money into the building.

"I think it’s cleaner than it was," remarked Jeff Goodman, 42, of Melville, L.I. "You can see the fresh coat of paint on the walls and new carpeting [in some areas]. I understand they are planning more in the future, which is welcome. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid with my parents, so I’ve seen the place mature."

Others pointed out that the lure of the Catskills resorts has faded because there are now kosher-for-Passover cruises and hotels in such exotic places as Hawaii and Aruba. "You can go to the islands and enjoy the weather at the same time," quipped one guest. Daniella Gruenspecht, 15, of Jamaica Estates, said she wished there were more young people at the hotel.

"It’s like an old-age home," she lamented, pointing to the old man sleeping in a chair in the lobby.

Her friend, Mimi Margalit, 14, of Riverdale, said that although she liked the building ("It’s old, like from the 1960s"), she too was struck by the age of most guests.

"The young crowd goes to Florida and Hawaii and Puerto Rico," she said. "They sure don’t come here."

Irving Cohen, the maitre’d who was hired by the Concord’s founder, Arthur Winarick, in 1940 and worked there until it closed, said the Concord’s demise came in part because its owners "never kept up with the times. People expected better. They never cut back on the food or entertainment, but when it came to the rooms, the property and the facility, it was not maintained properly."

Joseph Parilis, 35, of Flatbush, said he could come back if the hotel was "strictly kosher and there was entertainment that was appropriate for the crowds. Yes, there are other hotels, but in terms of style and size, the Concord is in a size by itself."

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