Crowne Plaza Manager: Guests Getting Shorted

By Justin Foss, Reporter

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By Justin Foss

CEDAR RAPIDS - Renovations at the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel are on hold after the engineers walked off the job frustrated with unpaid paychecks.

The left work around 3 p.m. Monday and its just the latest financial problem facing the biggest hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids.

There is money flowing in their books, even though they're continually bouncing payroll checks.

John McLaughlin is the front desk manager of the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons. He said so far this year the hotel has brought in $9.5 million. He says that averages to about $275,000 per week, despite the floods.

But now, it's not just employees who are being short-changed, McLaughlin said its guests, too.

The Crowne Plaza hotel is billed as the only full-service hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids, but McLaughlin said they're not even close to living up to that name.

"Basic little things like a newspaper in the morning, and the bill hasn't been paid, they stop delivering them, its a standard by the owners of the Crowne Plaza flag, its not being done," said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said guests routinely comment about a lack of newspapers on their reviews of the hotel.

Two weeks ago the owners of the Crowne Plaza brand, Intercontinental Hotels Group, inspected the hotel. McLaughlin said his general manager ordered him to check in rooms even though no one was staying there.

"I checked in 41 fictitious reservations on the 4, 5, 6 and 7 floors so that the inspector would not go into those rooms to see them," said McLaughlin.

The hotel's owners, Atlanta based Kronos Hotels, denied those claims. Peter Mathon who represents Kronos said the inspectors knew some rooms would not be available for inspection.

Inspectors for IHG haven't released what the results were, but McLaughlin said the hotel failed by a lot. He said according to guest surveys conducted by IHG, the average score for the hotel was around 38 out of 100 points. McLaughlin said a passing score is around 81.

McLaughlin said the latest rankings for the Crowne Plaza in Cedar Rapids, versus Crowne Plazas across the country was 147 out of 150.

IHG hasn't commented about the situation, and in the past has repeatedly said they don't comment on the specifics of their relationships with franchisees.

The land the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons sits on is owned by Cedar Rapids. Kronos Hotels lease the land for their building.

City representatives have said unless the hotel loses its Crowne Plaza affiliation, its hard to cancel the lease. Since the hotel lost its affiliation for about a day this summer, the city said it is constantly monitoring the situation.

McLaughlin said on Saturday, the hotel sold six rooms to guests that didn't have air-conditioning, heating, or because the windows don't open, no ventilation at all.

Mathon says Kronos Hotels is questioning those claims too. Mathon said some of the claims are coming from a disgruntled employee, but didn't say who he was talking about.

McLaughlin is disgruntled, he has filed a lawsuit for more than $13,000 for bounced checks from Kronos Hotels.

McLaughlin said he has paperwork proving each of the allegations, and each time he said, his superior made the final decision.

Since this spring KCRG TV9 has repeatedly reported employees dealing with bouncing paychecks.

"As the months have gone on, its gotten worse and worse and worse. It got to the point where they bounced every single employees paycheck," said McLaughlin.

Housekeepers say they haven't been paid in weeks, and one woman said its embarrassing to talk with their bankers.

"And she said before you go into your purse and get a check out, we need to discuss the check that bounced a couple weeks ago," said Carolyn Moore.

Monday night, Mathon said Kronos Hotels again switched banks for payroll, and added all of the paychecks should now be good.

This isn't the only hotel with these owners that is having financial problems.

Numerous properties are reporting problems, everything from losing brand affiliation to being cited for using a guest room and an air conditioning unit to store cold food.

Kronos Hotels still owe the state of Iowa more than $418,000 in unpaid sales taxes.

Email Justin Foss at Justin.Foss@kcrg.com

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