Hotel Equatorial KL - Going with the times

THE easy-going atmosphere of the Flo Lobby Lounge of Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur is a tad quieter than its usual days as the hotel prepares for its last month of business.

Despite the fact that the hotel will close its doors soon, guests, especially the regulars, still insist on staying there until the last day of business on March 31.

For the staff however, the official last day is April 30 as they work to pack up and sort out everything from cutleries, vases, paintings, telephones, potted plants to light fixtures, all of which will be put up for sale.

“A lot of the stuff will be sold to our sister properties and their staff. We are also giving a lot of things to charity. Whatever that is left will be sold to the public,’’ said Equatorial KL marketing communications director Carol Chin.

The hotel, one of the city’s oldest landmarks that had embellished the city’s skyline for almost four decades, will be demolished and a new hotel will be built in its place.

According to industry sources, the redevelopment project will involve demolishing the entire structure of the hotel and rebuilding from scratch.

“I cannot say much as the owners are tight-lipped and wants to keep things quiet for now, but what I can say is that the new hotel will be bigger and better with more facilities to stay in competition with its surroundings,’’ said the source.

The source added that the 39-year-old hotel in Jalan Sultan Ismail, which was opened in 1973, was getting a little old-fashioned as it was designed for the 1960s.

“It is time for a change and new plans include a bigger ballroom and a multilevel carpark.

“Currently, the hotel only has a one-level carpark which can accommodate 170 cars,’’ he said, adding that it would take at least six months to bring everything down and about three to four years to build the new hotel.

“Due to its location in a highly populated area — explosives won’t be used in the demolition work. The building will be taken apart piece by piece,’’ the source said.

Renowned for its friendly and supportive policy among staff many of its employees have worked in the hotel for decades. One old-timer who have been there since day one is G. Ponnambalam, fondly known as Balam.

Balam was only 18 years old when he started work as a steward in the hotel in 1973.

“I wanted to run away the first few days, they made me clean the kitchens and take out the garbage.

“At that age I did not expect a hotel job to be so tough. I thought it was going to be glamorous,’’ said the 57-year-old, who is today the food and beverage director.

Balam stayed put and worked hard and climbed the ladder of success.

“I was promoted and offered opportunities to grow and upgrade myself. Through the company, we were sent for training overseas on a regular basis,’’ Balam said, adding that he had the chance to visit the United States, Japan and parts of Europe including Switzerland.

Another loyalist is Kampachi executive chef How Yoke Seng who has been there for 25 years.

“I was 21 when I was offered a job as a junior cook. My bosses basically empowered me by providing me with the opportunity to learn and through them, I was given a chance to learn Japanese culinary skills,’’ How said.

Etoile manager Sylvia Chong agrees.

“We are loyal to the management as they are loyal to us. It is a mentality that goes with everyone else as well as we look out for each other like a big happy family,’’ said Chong who has been with the hotel for 31 years.

Over 300 hotel staff has been offered a voluntary separation package provided they stay on until April 30.

The hotel will cease operations on April 1. The last hotel guests will stay the night of March 31 and check out at noon the next day.

The hotel has 275 rooms and six food and beverage outlets namely Chalet, Etoile Bistro, Flo Lobby Lounge, Golden Phoenix, Kampachi, and Nipah Coffeeshop.

They have essential features and amenities as meeting venues for small- to medium-size events.

The hotel is owned by Datuk Lim Kong Wai and family. Lim is also its chairman.

Some employees have been provided options to work with the sister properties while others are advised to re-apply when the new hotel is ready.

Meanwhile, to celebrate its last day of business, the management is planning a big party themed The Last Dance before they close on March 31.

The party, to be held at the Flo Lobby Lounge, will last from 8pm until midnight with lots of music and great food. Cover charge is RM100++ for food and house-pouring drinks.

A special room rate of RM197.30 for March 31 will be available.

For reservations, call 03-2161 7777/8219/8203.

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