The Hotel Bel-Air not only has an updated look, restaurant and spa, it's now got a new general manager.
On March 21, Denise Flanders (right) officially started work heading up the legendary hotel, fresh from a four-year stint as general manager of the Four Seasons Chicago. She reports to Ed Mady, West Coast regional director USA of the Dorchester Collection, which owns the Bel-Air as well as the Beverly Hills Hotel (which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.)
In October of last year, the Bel-Air reopened after two years of extensive redesign that preserves the property's famed pond with its swans while adding a new Wolfgang Puck restaurant and a 4,000-square-foot La Prairie Spa. Since its opening in 1946, the hotel -- which now has a total of 103 guest rooms and suites -- has played host to such famous guests from Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor to Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of this historic hotel. It's an iconic hotel and what makes it so very special are the emotional attachments that our guests have had over the past 65 years,” says Flanders, in her first interview since joining the Hotel Bel-Air. "My goal is to continue creating those magical moments, and, with the new fresh and modern comforts since the renovations, being able to position the hotel so that we can pass it on to the next generation." Back in the 1980s, Flanders had worked with Mady at New York's Helmsley Palace.
While she hunts for a permanent L.A. residence, Flanders -- who had been with the Four Seasons hotel group for about 23 years -- is currently holed up at the hotel. "I have the opportunity to experience it firsthand. It's really about getting to know the employees and our guests. A lot of the guest recognition comes from speaking to the bellmen, the housekeepers. They have those personal relationships with our guests. They are a wealth of knowledge."
So what does she love most about the redesign? "Well one of the things that we did, we wanted to protect the backdrop of where we are in the canyon and these 12 acres of wonderful, fragrant gardens. That all remained the same as well as the architectural soul of the hotel. And the redesign did a really wonderful job of blending in the garden aspect. It was about increasing the indoor/outdoor experience with the restaurant and bar. We added additional patios to our guest rooms and suites."
So far though, she admits she hasn't really had time to get out and enjoy Los Angeles "other than just enjoying the California sun. My car just arrived on Friday."