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Mystic Marriott laying off 162 employees

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Groton — Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa has had to lay off 162 employees due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel’s Philadelphia-based manager announced this week in a letter emailed to the state Department of Labor.

Affected employees were to have been notified Tuesday.

The layoffs come less than three weeks shy of the state’s scheduled June 20 easing of restrictions on lodging. Until then, Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan to reopen nonessential businesses will continue to prohibit hotels and other “accommodation” from providing rooms to travelers. Only first responders, health care workers and others employed by essential businesses have been allowed to rent rooms.

In the letter, a Hersha Hospitality Management executive wrote that Mystic Marriott “began implementing temporary furloughs, layoffs and/or reductions in hours and salaries” in March, expecting that in most cases the cutbacks would last less than six months.

“However, as things have developed, we are only now beginning to see the true impact of COVID-19 on our business operations presently and into the foreseeable future, which is much more detrimental than originally anticipated,” wrote Joe Heck, an HHM senior director. Restrictions on businesses, large gatherings and travel “have caused a sudden, severe, and worsening downturn in the hospitality industry that now makes it reasonably foreseeable that the Furlough will become permanent,” he added.

HHM has concluded that people will be reluctant to travel even after states' coronavirus-induced restrictions are relaxed.

Given the anticipated reduction in demand, Heck wrote, “it has become apparent that the Hotel does not have the resources or the business need to continue its operations at the same level as existed prior to the COVID-19 crisis.”

No information about when or whether laid-off employees might be reinstated could be obtained. Neither Heck nor a Hersha Hospitality spokesman responded to messages seeking comment.

Groton Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky said she had not been informed of the Mystic Marriott layoffs.

“It’s disheartening because these are working people being impacted,” she said. “The only encouraging thing is that with the casinos gradually reopening, hopefully we’ll start bringing people back into the community. Public health is the first consideration, of course.”

"Certainly, we want this hotel to be at full strength again,” Granatosky said.

Owned by the Hersha Hospitality Trust, the 285-room Mystic Marriott is among Groton's five top taxpayers, and frequently hosts conventions and other high-profile business events. HHM, which manages the hotel, also manages a half-dozen other hotels in the state, including Springhill Suites in Waterford, the Residence Inn Mystic and the Holiday Inn Norwich.

In Connecticut, the labor department’s leisure and hospitality “supersector” lost 72,500 jobs in April, about half the total that existed in March. Accommodation and food services, a category included in the sector, accounted for 57,600 of the lost jobs.

Days before Foxwoods Resort Casino partially reopened Monday, a still-closed restaurant there announced it was laying off 102 employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on business. Junior’s, a restaurant and bakery known for its cheesecake, plans to reopen at some point, a spokesman for the restaurant’s owner said.

“With casinos being closed until June 1, 2020, hotel occupancy rates near zero, and no international travel, we cannot predict when restaurant business levels will resume normalcy,” a Junior’s official wrote in a filing with the labor department.

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, both of which shut down March 17, are only allowing a limited number of restaurants to provide takeout service in the first phase of their reopenings.

The governor’s reopening plan calls for inside dining at restaurants to resume June 20. Restaurant owners have pushed for that date to be moved up to next week.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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