5:11pm PT by Chris Gardner
Chateau Marmont Owner Andre Balazs Donates $100K to Support Laid-Off Employees
The coronavirus pandemic has crushed the U.S. economy and sent unemployment claims soaring as thousands of businesses, big and small, have been decimated amid widespread shutdowns. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said just days ago that the state has been hit particularly hard, with a record one million claims filed in a two-week period. Hollywood-favored haunts have not been immune to the cuts, but few have received the same attention as Chateau Marmont.
The industry-favored hotel made headlines when it was revealed in late March that owner André Balazs let go of nearly the entire staff due to the crisis. The news, first reported by CBS Los Angeles, cited Local 11, the labor union representing hospitality workers in Southern California, in confirming the cuts that affected approximately 200 workers, all of whom were not offered severance and only insured through the end of the month. Chateau Marmont, long known for employing dozens who have been at the hotel for years, and in some cases decades, has retained a skeleton crew to keep some business going while serving long-term guests who remain at the hotel.
Balazs has now stepped up to help former staffers by launching a GoFundMe campaign and donating $100,000 towards a $200,000 goal. Created March 26 by Balazs, he writes that the "vehemence and speed" of the pandemic forced the "unthinkable" cuts. He continues: "The drastic and unspeakably painful layoffs required could not be avoided, and the devastating impact on our family is incalculable." He confirms that the hotel is committing to recall workers on an "as needed" basis when business returns to normal, giving priority "by seniority."
Balazs also details other measures he's taking to help soften the blow, including the launch of an online gift shop selling Chateau merchandise, with all profits going directly towards assisting those who've been affected. Items include $65 baseball hats, $65 Alessandra candles, $250 white robes, $550 cashmere sweaters for men and women, and a pair of $1,200 original drawings done by Balazs during his last stay. Also on the page: gift cards for the iconic Garden Restaurant, profits of which also go to workers.
Lastly, Balazs confirms that he's donating the hotel's entire complex of cottages to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center physicians while they are providing services at the hospital. The 600-sq.ft. rooms typically go for $685-$785 per night and are among the hotel's 63 offerings on site. Though Balazs was not available for additional comment on the campaign or the aforementioned pledges, he promises in his note that these are the "first of a number of initiatives" he will share in coming days.
The Chateau Marmont is one of four major destinations across the globe owned by the hotelier through his André Balazs Properties, with the others being The Mercer in New York City; Sunset Beach in Shelter Island, New York; and Chiltern Firehouse in London.
As of Sunday afternoon, more than $122,900 had been raised on GoFundMe, where Balazs' name is joined by notable donors like Patricia Clarkson ($1,500), Sam Rockwell ($1,500), filmmaker Henry-Alex Rubin ($1,000), Griffin Dunne ($500), producer Jenifer Westphal ($500), producer Tom Fontana ($250) and former Starz communications vet Theano Apostolou ($250).
Read Balazs' full statement below.
The vehemence and speed of the Covid-19 spread in the US has forced many of us to do the unthinkable. In this case, the immediate scale-down of the Chateau Marmont operations — protecting the health of both employees and guests, a number of whom remain in residence — to ensure that the hotel survives and lives to see the day when it can again fully provide the safe haven it has for over 90 years.
The drastic and unspeakably painful layoffs required could not be avoided, and the devastating impact on our family is incalculable. Today the Chateau is committing to recall workers as needed and, when possible, by seniority when business returns to normal. I have made a personal contribution to this fund which will be shared equally amongst those who have always been the heart and soul of our community. In addition, we have:
— Contributed the Chateau’s entire complex of Cottages to the physicians of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center while they are providing healthcare services at the hospital.
— Launched a new online shop with Chateau merchandise with all profits going directly towards assisting those who have been affected.
— Made available the online purchase of Gift Cards for the Garden Restaurant, the profits of which are also dedicated to the support of our staff.
These are only the first of a number of initiatives that we will share in the coming days. I invite our many friends and guests of long-standing who have enjoyed and benefited from the comforting embrace of the Chateau to join me in assisting those who have so loyally and consistently supported us all.