Operators of Surrey’s largest hotel are showing some love for frontline workers.
In white and red, a giant heart has lit up the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel building since April 10.
The 280-room hotel has been closed since the last week of March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just wanted to show some appreciation for all the frontline workers out there,” said John Kearns, hotel general manager. “So looking at a picture of the hotel, we came up with the idea for a big heart. We happened to have some Christmas lights with red in them, so we used those. It’s just part of our community spirit during these dark days.”
The lights shine from the interior of the building.
“We’ve turned on lights in some guest rooms, and those are the white lights, and the red lights are LED ones shining out of the guest rooms, put on a coffee table or something, with some spaces in between. It’s as close as we could get to creating a heart, you know.”
The hotel’s last full day of operations was March 27, and the plan is to reopen after May 31.
“But that’s subject to government authorities and what we may or may not be restricted to,” Kearns cautioned. “So we’re looking to Monday, the first of June, for that. The restaurant and bars, we can’t run due to restrictions right now, so what we may come back with is difficult to determine right now. It may be just rooms only, we don’t know at this point.”
He added: “We’ve got a lot of optimism that things are going to turn around and that B.C. is better off that some areas, and we’re just hoping for the best that things can resume, some sort of operation. We don’t know how long before it’ll get back to normal, because a lot of the banquet meetings and events are cancelled because of the government restrictions in place. We don’t know when those will come back again, it’s hard to say.”
Kearns said some employees of the hotel elected to take vacation time off during the closure, while others were temporarily laid off. “We didn’t get to busy season yet, so it was really about 70 employees laid off, and all the rest are pretty much more seasonal depending on how much banquet volume we have,” Kearns said.
In Surrey’s downtown area, the 144-room Civic Hotel is also closed.
“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily close as of Wednesday (April 1), until further notice,” Civic Hotel general manager Franklin Jackson said in an emailed statement. “We are communicating this information to our guests and are relocating reservations to alternate locations. We believe it is our responsibility to do everything we can to keep our staff and community safe and to support our healthcare professionals as they work to stop the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to re-opening again as soon as possible.”
The Century Group-built Civic Hotel opened in 2018 as the first new highrise hotel built in Surrey in two decades, as part of the mixed-use 3 Civic Plaza complex adjacent to Surrey City Hall.
Fourteen hotels and three motels are listed on the “Stay” page of the website operated by Discover Surrey, the city’s tourism organization.
Among them, the 77-room Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Guildford remains open. General manager Julia Barreiros said the “select service” hotel has a “minimum amount of business” at the moment.
“At this time of year we typically expect around 85 to 90 per cent occupancy, and we’re now at 25 or 30, and even less some days – single digits some days, I can tell you that,” Barreiros told the Now-Leader on April 1.
“It’s pretty tough, and we’re trying to stay open because we have employees who have families and need to work. Even with the minimum amount of business we have, which is very little, we are trying to divide up the hours among the employees we have. Hopefully this will end soon – we’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
Barreiros said the hotel has enhanced its cleaning regimen during the pandemic.
“We have very strict guidelines in terms of cleaning and sanitization to start with, on a regular basis,” she said. “This is a very clean hotel, but now more than ever we’re taking extreme precautions…. We have special training for staff, we have hand sanitizer everywhere, and we have personal protective equipment for the staff, including masks, goggles and gloves.”