OCEAN AVE — Once a favorite retreat of Hollywood’s golden age personalities, The Georgian Hotel is wiping the dust off its red carpet and welcoming guests to celebrate its 80th anniversary.
In partnership with the Santa Monica Conservancy, the hotel is hosting a Prohibition-themed evening of entertainment, food and cocktails in its famed speakeasy next Wednesday, Oct. 16.
“I love this place, the people I work with and the community itself,” said General Manager Juan Viramontes. “We are a landmark of the city of Santa Monica, and to be able to showcase our property and share the celebration of this with the community is a great thing.”
For $100, attendees will be able to sample the hotel’s Veranda Restaurant menu, purchase special Prohibition cocktails and enjoy music from the Swing Dames, a retro harmony trio. All event proceeds will benefit the conservancy, a local nonprofit that acts as the leading voice for preserving Santa Monica’s historic sites. The Georgian has also promised to match all public donations less than $5,000 that are made to the conservancy throughout the remainder of the year.
“We’re thrilled,” said Carol Lemlein, president of the conservancy. “It’s a wonderful credit to The Georgian that they thought to reach out to another entity to encourage preservation in the city. They’re a wonderful example of taking advantage of a historic building and making sure that it has a strong, lively role in our community today.”
Towering eight stories above Ocean Avenue, the 84-room Georgian was among the tallest buildings in Santa Monica when its doors first opened in 1933.
The hotel, recognized for its ocean views, speakeasy and Art Deco design, quickly became a glamorous getaway for stars like Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
“It was an escape from Hollywood — people would come to Santa Monica and hide,” said Laura Westermeier, a Georgian sales and reservations representative.
In the 1960s, the building was converted into an upscale apartment residency, Westermeier said. It reverted to a hotel in the early ‘90s, though some current guests allege the spirits of former tenants still linger.
“One of our overnight officers tells a story about getting a telephone call from a guest room that was not occupied and he just heard giggling,” said Westermeier. “A guest claims to have checked into their room, put their stuff down and jumped into the shower. When they came out the television was on, the bed was open and the suitcase was empty.”
Despite the reports of paranormal activity, ghosts certainly haven’t scared away any business.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 guests visit the hotel each year, and about 70 staff members are on hand to keep operations running smoothly, said Viramontes.
“One of the keys … has been our employees — some have been with the hotel for over 40 years,” he said, noting that he became general manager in 2007 after 15 years of working his way through the company ranks. “Having that factor in this equation, it [creates] the consistency that is needed in this type of business.”
Among the veteran staff’s top priorities is keeping the hotel as close to its original condition as possible.
“We have maintained and upheld the integrity of the hotel, the architecture and the level of service,” said Westermeier. “But we’re still keeping up with the times — there’s complimentary Wi-Fi throughout, the air conditioning is built inside the property. We don’t make some changes, some people say the elevators are slow, but you know what? That’s part of the charm, that’s part of the beauty of it.”
Tickets to the Oct. 16 anniversary affair are available for purchase at thegeorgianhotelanniversary.eventbrite.com.