Four more hotels agree to rent rooms to ease strain on Chicago hospitals during pandemic

Hotel Cass, Hotel Essex, Hotel Felix and Hotel Julian will join Hotel 166 in providing the network of hotel rooms easing the strain on overburdened hospitals. All are owned by Oxford Capital Group LLC.

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The Hotel Essex once was known as the Essex Inn and maintains that sign on its roof.

The Hotel Essex is among four additional hotels that have agreed to provide rooms to ease the burden on hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Four more Chicago hotels have agreed to rent rooms to isolate patients who test positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed to someone who has.

Hotel Cass, Hotel Essex, Hotel Felix and Hotel Julian will join Hotel 166 in providing the network of hotel rooms tailor-made to ease the strain on overburdened hospitals. All of those hotels are owned by Oxford Capital Group LLC.

When Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the agreement she called a national model, only Hotel 166 was identified. The mayor said five hotels would provide 1,000 beds initially and 2,000 beds by the end of the week. She refused to identify the other hotels because agreements had not yet been signed.

On Wednesday, Oxford stepped forward to say it is supplying the city with “up to 1,100 rooms” at its hotels to house what it called “asymptomatic guests, those requiring isolation” as well as “provide sanctuary for first responders” on the front-lines of the war against the coronavirus.

Three meals a day will be provided to all guests.

In a press release announcing its partnership with the city, Oxford stressed the “strict protocols” it has imposed at its properties across the county to prevent community spread of the virus. That includes frequent cleaning elevator buttons, door handles, reception counters, washrooms and other “high-contact points.”

“As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our community, we wanted to do our part to provide a sanctuary for those who need it during this difficult time,” Oxford Capital Group’s founder, president and CEO John W. Rutledge was quoted as saying.

“We’re proud to help the city combat this crisis and allow our brave medical professionals to focus on their most critical patients in their hospitals.”

Lightfoot has pegged the cost of just one of the five hotels at $1 million-a-month. She has not identified the funding source at a time when city revenues are plummeting.

Oxford Hotels President George Jordan noted the unprecedented agreement is a two-way street. It will provide at least some measure of business for hotels that have either closed altogether or seen their occupancy rates drop to single-digits during the pandemic.

“In addition to helping the city, this arrangement allows Oxford to retain a number of employees who are interested in contributing to the relief effort,” Jordan was quoted as saying.

“It’s inspiring to see our hospitality teams come together, even when they’ve had to weather the storm themselves.”

The hotel partnership is unprecedented and extraordinary.

To make it happen, City Hall first had to broker an agreement to resolve an 18-month strike by UNITE HERE Local 1 against Fillmore Hospitality, operator of Hotel 166. That allowed the union’s members to return to work to provide food and housekeeping services for patients in isolation at the hotel, formerly known as the Cambria Chicago Magnificent Mile.

In Wednesday’s press release, Oxford said it worked with the mayor’s office, Unite Here Local 1 and the Operating Engineers Local 399 to “bring an end” to the marathon strike.

“As part of this resolution, Oxford helped craft an amended collective bargaining agreement and is simultaneously taking over management of Hotel 166, demonstrating that business, labor, and the private equity investment community can productively work together in Chicago,” the release said

LondonHouse Chicago, The Godfrey Hotel Chicago, and Hotel Versey are also owned by Oxford, but those hotels are “not currently part of the agreement,” the company said.

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