Business

Nearly 300 workers laid off at Ritz-Carlton South Beach due to Hurricane Irma

The 375-room Ritz-Carlton, South Beach will remain closed until next year as it renovated the property following damage from Hurricane Irma. Nearly 300 employees at the hotel will be laid off in December.
The 375-room Ritz-Carlton, South Beach will remain closed until next year as it renovated the property following damage from Hurricane Irma. Nearly 300 employees at the hotel will be laid off in December. Ritz-Carlton, South Beach

Nearly 300 workers are being laid off from the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach — and they have Hurricane Irma to blame.

The mass layoff of 281 hourly employees — largely servers, cooks and housekeepers — is the second blow Irma has dealt hotel employment in South Florida. Last week, Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key laid off 260 employees after storm damage forced the hotel to shut down until mid- to late-summer 2018.

The 375-room Ritz-Carlton closed Sept. 8 in anticipation of Irma, which hit Sept. 10. The hotel has issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Notice with the Florida Department of Employment Opportunity Monday. The layoffs will be effective Dec. 8.

We have advised our employees that we will do our best to provide them with alternative job opportunities at other locations of the company in the area.

Sase Gjorsovski, general manager at Ritz-Carlton South Beach

In a letter filed with the state, general manager Sase Gjorsovski wrote that the hotel has evaluated the extent of the damage caused by Irma and has determined it “must remain closed for an extended period of time for renovation.”

The layoff is permanent, he said.

Displaced employees will be eligible to apply for jobs at the resort again when it resumes operations, though a reopening date has not yet been set, Gjorsovski wrote. The hotel said in a statement Wednesday that it plans to reopen sometime next year.

“We have advised our employees that we will do our best to provide them with alternative job opportunities at other locations of the company in the area,” he said. “We also encourage them to explore available opportunities with the company that may be of interest to them.”

The Ritz added in via a statement that it is “making every effort” to transfer displaced employees to properties in the interim.

Last week, Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key laid off 260 employees because the damage created by Irma.

The Department of Economic Opportunity also offers several programs to workers impacted by Irma, including disaster unemployment assistance and the federal Dislocated Worker Grant Program to help local boards offer temporary employment. Department spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said in a statement that there were more than 221,000 job opening in Florida in September, including nearly 27,000 job opening in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Among the jobs cut at the Ritz-Carlton, located on Lincoln Road near Collins Avenue, are 49 servers, 47 housekeepers and 13 cooks. Supervisory positions include the front desk supervisors, spa desk supervisor, guest relations supervisors and food & beverage supervisors.

Following Irma, the Ritz had initially planned to reopen on Sept. 22, and then moved that date back to Oct. 6. It was one of a handful of Miami-Dade hotels that closed for an extended period of time after the storm, even though Miami Beach was largely untouched by the storm. The Florida Keys, which were plowed by Irma as a Category 4 storm, have seen far more hotel closures in the hardest hit areas of the Middle and Lower Keys.

At the Ritz, hotel management is using the closure to renovate the property.

At the Ritz, hotel management is using the closure to renovate the property after what it called “significant damages” from Irma. The luxury hotel said in a statement that “while some of the final renovation details have yet to be defined, we are truly looking forward to welcoming everyone back to an enlivened and inspirited Ritz-Carlton, South Beach.”

Hotels in Miami-Dade County took a hit from Irma in September. Last month, room nights sold dropped about 11 percent over September 2016, already a low-performance month thanks in part to the sting from Zika last summer, according to data analytics firm STR. Revenue plummeted 8.6 percent and hotel rooms were only about 59 percent full this September — a 13 percent decrease from the same time last year.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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