The entrance to the historic Omni Berkshire Place Hotel is now boarded up.
The East 52nd Street hotel was built in 1926 by the firm that designed Grand Central Terminal. In 1942, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote “Oklahoma!” at the spot.
But once the pandemic erupted — the hotel industry tanked.
“Two hundred sixteen of us were let go without a penny of severance or health care. In the middle of a global pandemic, in New York City, which was the epicenter,” said Tamara Lynch, a server in the Omni’s restaurant for 13 years.
What You Need To Know
- The Omni Berkshire Place Hotel was built in 1926 by the firm that designed Grand Central Terminal
- Employees say on June 8 they were told COVID-19 layoffs would be extended indefinitely because the hotel was now permanently closed
- The Omni chain is headed by Texas billionaire Robert Rowling
- Report: chain got up to $84M under the federal paycheck protection program, a loan structured as an incentive for the company to keep its workers on the payroll.
Lynch was furloughed in March, when restaurants were closed to diners. Lynch says on June 8, the employees received WARN notices stating the layoffs would be extended indefinitely because the hotel was now permanently closed.
The Dallas Morning News reports the Omni chain, headed by Texas billionaire Robert Rowling, received up to $84 million under the federal paycheck protection program (PPP), a loan structured as an incentive for the company to keep its workers on the payroll.
“I think it’s morally reprehensible that you would take 216 people and throw them in the street after they loyally served you and made you millions of dollars and in the middle of our most incredible need here in New York City,” said Lynch.
Longtime employees wiped away tears — while talking about the next step.
“Devastated. It left me without no words. I couldn’t believe the owner would close ever, ever this place” said Georgeta Ionescu, who worked at the Omni for 23 years. “I thought, ‘I’m going to get out with a pension.’”
“And just to have all those years — 21 years — and for me to go out and try to maybe change my career at my age? It’s hard,” said Kelly Orama, a former employee.
A source with knowledge of the negotiations says management is currently negotiating a severance package under the terms of the worker’s contract. It includes a cash payment, compensation for unused time off, and extended health coverage.
The Hotel Trades Council, the union representing the workers, declined comment. An Omni Hotels spokeswoman said the PPP money the company received was instrumental to its survival. The program states loans have to be repaid if employees are let go. The spokeswoman said any part of the PPP loan that's not forgiven would be repaid with interest. She said Omni will pay severance, and added there is no plan for the building at this time.
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