The Latham Hotel, a restored landmark in Mount Vernon, has new owners, thanks to rising occupancy and room rates that has made the hotel attractive to buyers.
Within the next 30 days, the Latham becomes the Clarion Hotel after a $4.5 million sale last week. The transaction may result in the closing of the trendy Citronelle restaurant on the 13th floor.
The fate of the Latham's 130 employees also is uncertain. Mercedes McDonnell, a spokeswoman for Clarion's parent firm, Manor Care Hotels of Silver Spring, said the workers would be "evaluated based on their experience and track record." She declined to say how many may ultimately be rehired.
The sale Sept. 20 by CapStar Hotels of Washington to Manor Care came three years after CapStar purchased the former Peabody Court Hotel for $3.1 million.
Yesterday, executives of CapStar said the Citronelle restaurant will close because the restaurant has operated on an exclusive agreement between the hotel chain and the executive chef, Michel Richard, a nationally known French chef.
But representatives of the new owners say they may try to negotiate to keep the restaurant open.
"We have a 60 day agreement with the folks from Citronelle and will continue operating that restaurant as Citronelle. That agreement will either be extended or we will pursue other opportunities," said James Anhut, vice president of real estate for Manor Care Hotels.
But John Plunket, CapStar's executive vice president for finance and development, said Citronelle "is being operated on an interim basis and will be closing."
He said that under an agreement between CapStar and Mr. Richard, "if we do not own it, Michel's name comes off."
But he added that his company has "the ability to leave the Citronelle name up with mutual agreement."
The new owners plan to put $1 million in repairs to the hotel, but otherwise will not make any major changes, officials said.
The sale of the 103-room hotel came after the Latham owners had bolstered the hotel's occupancy and room rates over the last few years. The inn is located at 612 Cathedral St. near the Peabody Conservatory of Music.
Mr. Plunket said his company sold the hotel because his company is only interested in owning larger hotels of more than 300 rooms.
Mr. Anhut said his company purchased the hotel because of its proximity to his corporate headquarters in Silver Spring and because it "fits well into our investment strategy of buying independent hotels and converting them to one of the brands of Choice Hotels International."
In January 1994, Bon Appetit magazine named Baltimore's Citronelle one of the best new restaurants in the country.
"Citronelle was Baltimore's first introduction to the nouvelle California cuisine. They really did a good job," said Michael Gettier, a local chef who owns M. Gettier restaurant in Fells Point and previously operated Citronelle's predecessor restaurant at the Peabody Court, called the Conservatory.