The Pour House restaurant was already closed and people were being ushered out of the Wyndham Garden Hotel on Thursday morning as what was once one of the most iconic hotels in Amarillo prepared to close for the foreseeable future.
“We’re temporarily shutting down,” said John Isham, manager of the hotel since last October. “We’re trying to get a new ownership in here and we’re hoping by the end of the year.”
Water had already been shut off at the property at 3100 W. 1-40, Isham said.
Isham declined to say how many employees were affected by the closing of the hotel and restaurant and said he didn’t know who might take over ownership.
Penni Bentley, Amarillo Chamber of Commerce senior communications director, said the hotel dropped its chamber membership Sept. 30, 2016. At that time, Bentley said, the hotel reported 80 full-time employees to the chamber.
At least three employees were on the property Thursday. None would comment.
Isham said guests were still checking out of the hotel as late as Thursday.
“‘No comment’ at this time would be the answer to every other question,” he said. “I just gotta close the hotel down, I gotta make sure guests are not in the rooms.
“We have to close the door and need everybody out of the building.”
As recently as Sept. 16, a Facebook posting for the hotel was advertising a “$79 rate ‘til the end of the year!”
Vice president of the Amarillo Convention &Visitor Council Dan Quandt said the hotel had been struggling recently.
“They just had a lot of issues they were facing … they’ve been facing some uphill battles,” Quandt said.
He said the hotel reported 46.3 percent occupancy in the second quarter of 2017, according to the Texas Hotel Performance Factbook. By comparison, the average occupancy for all hotel and motel lodging in Amarillo during the same period was 66.6 percent.
Of the 265 rooms in the hotel, Quandt said, only 60 rooms have been in use for the past 18 months due to remodeling on the upper floors.
“It’s a sad situation,” Quandt said.
“There’s no question they were a queen hotel of the area for many years, so it’s sad to see this happen.”
When Phyllis Nickum left her position as the hotel’s general manager in 2011, she said the hotel — which was then the Ambassador — was in great condition.
“It was great, it was the Ambassador,” she said. “We were Amarillo’s finest hotel … It was spectacular. We had movie stars and dignitaries and corporate VIPs and conventioneers … everyone stayed at the Ambassador and loved doing it.”
Nickum said the hotel had 176 employees when she left.
“We created our own brand by the service we gave people, the quality of the hotel and the PR that we provided,” she said. “Our slogan was ‘Texas Star Treatment’ and that’s what we did, we treated every guest like a movie star. It would be like going to a 5-star hotel in New York.”
On Facebook the Wyndham Garden Hotel had an average of 3.1 stars from 98 reviews on Thursday. On Yelp, the hotel averaged one star from 34 reviews.
“To have a vibrant business you must focus on sales, service and product enhancement, and I don’t think they did that,” Nickum said.
According to travel research firm STR, the hotel opened in June 1984 as a Sheraton Inn. It later became the Harvey Hotel before becoming the Ambassador in 1994.
While branded as the Ambassador, the hotel won Best Overnight Stay in the Best of Amarillo awards from 2002 to 2013. In September 2014, Suneet Singal, chief financial officer of California-based First Capital Real Estate Investment, announced $5 million in upgrades and a name change from the Ambassador to Wyndham Garden Hotel.
In October 2016, Isham told the Globe-News that he intended to “reverse about a year of mismanagement.”
The Pour House restaurant was closed for several months in 2016 through 2017 after a dispute between the hotel and restaurant owners.
John Priest said he was a server and bartender at the Pour House restaurant for four brief months in 2016.
“The management at the restaurant wasn’t able to get the things they needed fixed in the restaurant. It took all of four months, once summer started winding down, for them to get an air conditioner for the restaurant,” he said. “There was no worry from the upper management who were in the position to get things fixed. They would say, ‘Yeah we’ll get it fixed,’ and nothing would come of it.
“I’d love to see somebody buy that hotel and do great things with it. People think that it’s not a good spot for the restaurant or hotel, but it’s actually been a staple of our community for a really, really long time so I’d really like to see good things happen with it. I love my hometown and want to see it do well.”