News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Tom Searls, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 6, 2004 - The days of casually walking into The Greenbrier, perhaps having afternoon tea or lunch, are over, officials at the White Sulphur Springs resort confirmed Monday.
With some exceptions, the hotel is now off-limits to all but registered guests and club members and their guests, said resort spokeswoman Lynn Swann.
Swann said the decision was made "for the protection of guests."
She stressed there have been no terrorist-type incidents or threats to the hotel, which has private residences and three famed golf courses within its 6,500 acres. "It's not that any one thing has happened," said Swann, who would only say safety is the top priority of the resort.
The 224-year-old resort will continue to accept advance registrations from nonguests or nonmembers for dinner and golf tee times, she said, as well as admitting individuals attending group functions.
"The Greenbrier has taken its responsibilities in dealing with a changed and uncertain world very seriously, understanding the necessity to provide a secure environment for both our guests and members while maintaining the resort's traditions and expectations of excellence," Jack G. Damioli, resort general manager, said in a news release.
Named the "resort of the century" in 1999 by the Andrew Harper Hideaway Report, the resort's accommodations range from luxurious rooms and suites in the main building to cottages and estate houses. It has 850 rooms.
Swann said she was not sure what, if any, effect the changes would have on the variety of shops in the main hotel's lower-level shop corridor or the artist colony cottages. While most of the shops belong to the resort, a number of them are private endeavors. She was not certain if business owners were contacted before the resort, owned by railroad giant CSX, changed its rules.
"Honestly, our primary concern is safety and security," she said. "That is foremost."
The resort is the largest employer in Greenbrier County, with more than 1,800 employees and its own culinary school, and is known for world-class service and Southern hospitality. It draws visitors from around the world, many of the rich and famous and political leaders.
Under the grounds of the luxury resort is buried a bunker that was originally planned as the hideaway for members of Congress in case of a nuclear or other catastrophe. The secret bunker pretty much stayed that way for four decades, before a newspaper revealed its existence several years ago. Resort employees now take guests on tours of the facility.
"We have taken many steps to improve security -- some have been obvious and easy, others have been necessary and difficult," Damioli said in the news release. "This action is similar to the one that we have all become familiar with at office buildings and prominent properties all around our country, the limitation of casual access any time of the day or night."
When Vice President Dick Cheney was not seen in public for months following the 2001 terrorist attacks, rumors swirled around the state that he was staying at the White Sulphur Springs resort. Those rumors were never confirmed.
The Greenbrier has earned AAA's five-diamond award every year since its inception, and only in recent years lost its five-star restaurant rating from Mobil Travel Guide. The resort and its restaurant, The Tavern Room, was given only four stars for the fourth consecutive year after receiving the organization's top rating for 38 years in a row.
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(c) 2004, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.