Montreal's St-James hotel, known for its A-list guests, closes after two decades

A luxury hotel in Montreal's Old Port, known for its A-list guests and lavish rooms, is closed for good.

The owner of the Hotel Le St-James says the COVID-19 pandemic made for a major loss in revenue, as was the case for many other Montreal hotels.

Vincent Chiaro has owned the St-James since it started up 20 years ago.

"It's a tough gig to operate a hotel of that size," he said, adding that the costs of starting back up were too high.

It's the end of an era for one of Montreal's swankiest hotels, which has welcomed guests like Mick Jagger, Britney Spears and Elton John.

The St-James is far from the only Montreal hotel to close during the pandemic. As for those still around, most are grappling with serious debt.

These days, with the sixth wave winding down, there's no shortage of travellers.

But now, there's a new problem: staff shortages.

"I was speaking with a member last week. For July, he's got a 92 per cent occupation rate, it's great. We need staff, that's the major problem right now," said Jean-Sebastien Boudreault, president of the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal.

If enough people are hired, this summer could be a lifeline for hotel owners.

And the St-James has plans of its own: it could soon reopen its restaurant, sell some rooms as condos, and keep some open for short-term stays.

"We're going to protect the architectural beauty of the hotel, so that's not going to disappear," said Chiaro.

Boudreault said adaptability is key to surviving in the hotel business.

"It's a new model. We need to change, we need to evolve. I think it's a good thing," he said.

"We're hoping [Hotel Le St-James] will reopen soon, hopefully. We need all the hotels we have, because Montreal needs hotel rooms."


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