The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara has canceled all bookings and events through 2022, according to several staff members interviewed by Noozhawk this week.
The employees say they are now talking to a lawyer with the intention of filing a class action against the company. They say they earn severance pay, according to the terms of their employment contracts.
No one from the hotel answered Noozhawk’s calls this week. An operator who answered the phone said she delivered the messages to management.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closing of the hotel a year ago, most other hotels have reopened and there are currently no restrictions on the reopening of the hotel sector.
The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, at 1260 Channel Drive and owned by hotelier Ty Warner, has a legendary reputation as a five-star beachfront hotel.
Employees said they were told on a conference call in March that the hotel will be closed “ until further notice ” and that bookings and events will be frozen until 2022. The news came as a shocking surprise, because in November they were told that the hotel will open on May 1.
Then, just four days ago, the company announced in a social media post that the resort manager would be leaving The Biltmore after 13 years.
“If the general manager leaves, it doesn’t look too positive,” said one employee.
It was one of the company’s few means of communication.
Noozhawk does not identify the employees because they fear retaliation. They are also looking for other jobs and don’t want to be seen as troublemakers.
However, the employees described a gloomy situation. Some of the 450 employees who previously earned six figures have gotten jobs for Whole Foods or drive for Uber. Others have lost their homes.
The workers have been given technical leave, which means they have not been fired. They are eligible for unemployment benefits, but for many this is only a fraction of what they are used to earning.
They said their employment contract contains an “impact” clause, meaning they are entitled to severance pay, based on years of service, if the hotel closes through no fault of the employees. However, they have not been fired.
Some of the employees have worked at the resort for decades and are between their 50s and 60s.
“Most tragically, people who are about to retire cannot find a job at their age,” said one employee.
“Many people suffer without their jobs, and the community has been more affected without partnering with The Biltmore,” said Das Williams, Santa Barbara County’s first district supervisor. “We hope they will reconsider and open up.”
Mental health also takes its toll.
“It’s the biggest problem because people are connected to their jobs,” said Williams. “It’s who you are as a person. It feels like a failure. It’s totally addictive to have that taken away.”
In August, hundreds of workers who had lost their jobs marched along Coast Village Road to The Biltmore in protest at the way they had been treated. While many of the workers have collected unemployment checks, some workers are not citizens, which prevents them from collecting unemployment checks. While on leave, the employees do not have health insurance or benefits from the luxury hotel.
The employee said it is probably time to “close the door” as the hotel is likely to reopen soon.
The employees said employees felt sad.
“You have this beautiful, probably the most beautiful property in Santa Barbara, and it was just thrown away,” said one employee. “It just seems so pointless. Nobody really knows what’s really going on and what’s going to happen.”
Although Jeff Frapwell, assistant district administrator, said the county does not track hotel bed tax based on specific properties, in March the county said it was about $ 2.8 million lower in estimated temporary stay taxes, largely due to pandemic travel restrictions and the ongoing closure from The Biltmore.