Photos by Teresa Meier
So he’s unabashedly looking to grow and change the century-old landmark. He’d like to put 80 to 85 more rooms on the west end of the hotel site, an area currently used as an extended parking lot. And he says he doesn’t anticipate problems in the land use approval process, even though the site sits within the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. “I would never have gotten into something where I couldn’t expand here,” Patel says.
By increasing capacity twofold, Patel will look to capture the wedding guests he currently sends to other establishments in Hood River because of his current room count. And the hotel restaurant, spa and lounge finally will be serving at full tilt. He’ll also be able to chase the corporate meeting market that has so far eluded the hotel.
“We’ve lost quite a few big events because there aren’t enough rooms here,” he says.
Patel’s immediate challenge is to lift the PR pall cast by the hotel’s abrupt closure in February 2009. While the occupancy rate has ticked up 2% in 2011 over 2010, the management is still overcoming the prevailing buzz that the hotel is closed for good. Robinson has booked just about every special interest group one could think of — from the Washington Wine Growers Association to QVC to the International Paranormal Reporting Group (there have been ghost sightings at the hotel) — to get the word out about the building’s revival.
Asked if he might use some high-powered vacationing starlet to help put the hotel back on the map, Patel demurred. “We’re here for our guests, we’re not looking to take advantage of them,” he says.
A moment later, Robinson produced a list of celebrity guests past, which included Burt Reynolds, Presidents Hoover and Taft, and Tom Cruise. It was proof of the new owners’ steadfast belief that, with the right appointments, the Columbia Gorge Hotel’s history is bankable enough.