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D.C. hotel chain buys Peabody Court


The Peabody Court Hotel, the long-troubled luxury inn in Mount Vernon, has a new owner.

Paul Whetsell, president of CapStar Hotels Inc. of Washington, said his company closed its purchase of the property yesterday. The sale, which had been expected, takes the hotel off the hands of its reluctant owner, NationsBank of Charlotte, N.C.

The bank acquired the hotel when its owners defaulted on a loan about two years ago and has been seeking a buyer ever since.

Mr. Whetsell did not disclose the price, but he noted that "it's a good time to be buying" hotels. He said CapStar would spend a substantial sum on renovating the hotel within the next 60 days.

CapStar expects to introduce a new concept at the Peabody Court's award-winning restaurant, the Conservatory, by November, Mr. Whetsell said.

"Our initial feeling is we will probably be changing the name of the restaurant," he said. It will continue to be "an upscale, signature restaurant," he added. The Conservatory lost its highly regarded chef, Michael Gettier, in a management reshuffle in July.

Mr. Whetsell said CapStar has installed a new general manager, George Kelly, but that the rest of the staff would be kept on with no loss of seniority or benefits.

He added that the acquisition would bring stability to a property that has been in flux for the past two years.

"We're not the kind of company that buys and sells real quick," he said.

The Peabody Court will be the 36th hotel in the CapStar chain, which includes such properties as Latham hotels in Philadelphia and Washington; the Driskill Inn in Austin, Texas; and the Santa Barbara Inn in Santa Barbara, Calif.

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