By JOHN T. WARD
Easing back to life from its COVID-19 lockdown, Red Bank’s Oyster Point Hotel plans to launch a phased reopening Monday.
But amid uncertainty over wedding and business-event bookings, the hotel and its sibling Molly Pitcher Inn now have to “reinvent” themselves, company vice president Kevin Barry told redbankgreen Friday.
When the Oyster Point checks in its first customer after a 12-week idling Monday afternoon, all guests and staff will be subjected to temperature checks, Barry said Friday.
Face coverings, social distancing requirements and frequent cleaning of “high-contact” points such as door handles and elevator buttons will be followed under a detailed, 10-page safety protocol, he said. Delivery of room-service meals from the hotel’s Pearl restaurant will be “contactless,” according to a post on the hotel’s Facebook page.
Plans call for a “secondary team” to come in and replace any workers who might test positive or show signs of illness, Barry said.
The family-controlled J.P. Barry Hospitality shut both its hotels following Mayor Pasquale Menna’s March 15 emergency declaration, under which bars and restaurants were ordered closed. Both hotels house restaurants and bars.
That order was superceded six days later by an unprecedented shutdown of the economy and social activity by Governor Phil Murphy. And while Murphy has been gradually easing limits in recent weeks, both on-premise and outdoor dining remain banned.
The Molly Pitcher remains closed, in part out of uncertainty about demand, Barry said.
“We’re just going to take baby steps,” he said.
With business gatherings, weddings and restaurant activity having effectively shut down, “our entire business model has been swept away,” Barry said.
He said much of the 56-room Oyster Point’s staff has continued working, rescheduling and cancelling events throughout the health crisis. While some engaged couples have offered to cut down their guest lists in order to hold onto reception dates in the event the smaller gatherings might soon be allowed by Murphy’s regulations, others have cancelled because the hotel can’t guarantee it can accommodate their parties, even months into the future, Barry said.
The loss of wedding receptions alone from April through June “is our entire year, essentially,” he said.
This is not the first time the hotel, which fronts on the Navesink River, has had to mount a recovery. It was knocked out of business for three months by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. The 106-room Molly, which also fronts on the river but at a higher elevation, was largely spared.
“But that was a storm. It wasn’t a demand issue,” Barry said. “People were still traveling.”
At the moment, there’s almost no international travel occurring, and little across state lines. The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates the industry has lost $21 billion in revenue. Barry said that just like downtown restaurants, his hotels have to reorient themselves to attract local customers.
“We’re going to have to become more experience-driven,” offering events such as movie nights and cooking classes with chefs, he said.
The hotel also hopes to appeal to area residents just looking to sleep in a different bed after more than two months under near-lockdown at home, said.
“We’re hoping for some walk-ins,” Barry said.
As part of the reopening, each of the Oyster Point’s guest rooms will display a painting by the hotel’s first artist-in-residence, Don Harger, through the rest of 2020.
An opening reception for Harger’s work will be scheduled once such gatherings can be safely held, hotel curator Ellen Martin said in a press release.