Two biggest hotels in Indianapolis suspend operations

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JM Marriott

The two largest hotels in Indianapolis have suspended operations, following more than two weeks of occupancy and staffing struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1,005-room JW Marriott Indianapolis and 650-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown closed Monday after they stopped taking reservations late Sunday. Signs posted on the front doors of each building refer guests to the JW-adjacent Fairfield Inn & Suites.

A representative for White Lodging, which manages and owns both the JW and the Marriott (as well as the Fairfield), did not immediately respond to calls and text messages requesting comment.

The sign on the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown said the hotel would be closed for at least two weeks, and a source told IBJ the JW is likely to be closed for the same amount of time.

The shutdowns came shortly before Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a statewide stay-at-home order.

The closures will mean loss of employment for about 780 full-time workers—500 employees at the JW and 280 at the Marriott.

White Lodging chairman Bruce White told IBJ last week he was considering closing the properties because there weren’t enough guests to warrant keeping them open.

Occupancy rates for the JW and the Marriott fell to the single-digits—about 5% to 8%—in recent days. Together, they account for about 20% of downtown’s hotel room inventory.

“I think when you have occupancies of less than 5%, [closing] is certainly something that any owner would need to consider,” White said March 18.

Most every hotel in central Indiana has seen occupancy rates fall below 20% since earlier this month, due to the cancellation of dozens of events and suspension of most personal and business travel to promote social distancing.

Hotel occupancy was around 67% for the market one year ago.

The JW and Marriott are among the first hotels in Indiana to fully shut down because of COVID-19. French Lick Resort and at least two hotels in Chicago closed for the same reason last week.

Hundreds of local hospitality workers have lost their jobs in the past week, including at the Cambria hotels in Westfield and Noblesville, and the Sheraton at Keystone at the Crossing.

Two other local hotels announced layoffs Monday: Le Meridien in downtown Indianapolis cut 33 employees and the Marriott East let go 98 workers. The cuts are expected to be temporary, according to WARN notices sent to the state by the hotels—both of which are still accepting reservations.

Sanjay Patel, president of Indianapolis-based MHG Hotels LLC, said he had to lay off at least 100 workers last week, with another 150 layoffs likely this week.

Patel operates several hotels in suburban Indianapolis, including flags in Avon, Southport, Fishers and Noblesville. MHG’s 16 properties throughout the U.S. are collectively under 8% occupancy, he said.

He is considering closures, too.

“We’re thinking of closing a few of them here—it’s just deteriorating every day,” Patel said. ”It was worse last night than the night before and it was worse the night before than two days ago. It’s just deteriorating and I think it’s just matter of time [until] we close down.”

Other local hospitality companies—including General Hotels Corp., owner of the Crown Plaza, and Dora Hospitality Group, which manages numerous hotels throughout Indianapolis—are considering temporarily closing, too.

Representatives for both companies indicated no final decisions have been made.

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2 thoughts on “Two biggest hotels in Indianapolis suspend operations

  1. How about if the hotels open up to the healthcare workers. These dedicated people need to be given a place to stay instead of going home and exposing their families. I know they will miss them but they will be safer.

    1. Um, no. If an exposed healthcare worker goes home, then their family is the limit of spread. If an exposed healthcare worker goes to a hotel full of other healthcare workers, then they could infect a whole bunch of other healthcare workers. That’s a double whammy: far more people exposed and potentially a whole lot of healthcare workers offline.