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The Riviera resort sits on the nook of Indian Canyon Drive and Vista Chino. The resort opened in 1959. (Photograph: Vickie Connor/The Desert Solar)

The Riviera, a historic Palm Springs resort that when was a selection hangout for members of the Rat Pack, is being reworked right into a Margaritaville resort.

The historic Palm Springs property, positioned on the nook of Indian Canyon Drive and Vista Chino, is ready to open below the brand new idea within the fall of 2020 whereas remaining closed for renovations till then.

The Margaritaville model, impressed by singer’s Jimmy Buffett laid-back and beachy ethos, has greater than 20 properties together with areas within the U.S. and Mexico.

The Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs would be the first West Coast location for the hospitality model, which Buffett partly owns and which additionally contains casinos and eating places. Two properties in San Diego are deliberate to open in 2021.

Whereas the coronavirus pandemic has upended leisure journey and the hospitality business, officers with the Riviera’s new working firm, Davidson Accommodations & Resorts, say they anticipate demand for a brand new spin on a storied property.  Davidson operates greater than 50 different properties and was introduced in by the Riviera’s proprietor earlier this 12 months.  

“Palm Springs is such an amazing space, and our core function is to create enjoyable and escapism, stated Mark Rogers, the senior vp of hospitality and worldwide operations with Margaritaville. “It actually met the DNA of what we search for in a resort.”

Rogers stated Margaritaville resorts are greatest identified for his or her meals and beverage ideas. 

“That is the largest asset we convey, and we alter the entire dynamic,” he stated.

The Palm Springs property could have a number of eating choices, together with bars with on-brand names like 5 O’Clock Someplace, Lone Palm and License to Chill. There may even be a brand new restaurant idea, JWB Grille, which is called for “James (Jimmy) William Buffett.”

Buffett rose to fame as a musician within the Seventies identified for his island-inspired music, together with “Margaritaville,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” His devoted followers are often known as Parrotheads, and are identified to don tropical shirts. This 12 months, he launched a brand new album: “Life on the Flip Facet.”

The Margaritaville life-style model began from a retail retailer within the Eighties and grew to a hospitality chain that spans continents. The model additionally sponsors the Margaritaville USA Pickleball Nationwide Championships, which was slated to be held on the Indian Wells Tennis Backyard this fall however has been canceled.

Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs, seen here in a rendering, is expected to open in the fall of 2020 after a new operating company took over The Riviera, a historic hotel in Palm Springs off Indian Canyon Drive that opened in 1959. (Photo: Davidson Hotels & Resorts)

A new concept for a historic property

Converting The Riviera to the Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs marks the first time in a 60-year history the 16-acre, 398-room property will go by another name.

Designed by Irwin Schuman, The Riviera opened in 1959 inthe spirit of Las Vegas resorts and became a hangout for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Elvis Presley was also a guest; later, former Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono opened a restaurant at the property, according to the hotel’s website. 

General manager Matt Huss said the Margaritaville concept has loyal fans who will head to the new resort. He started here in February, just 22 days before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered their operations, andhas worked at different Davidson properties for 15 years in Atlanta, San Diego, and Agoura Hills. and Memphis.

He said the new concept will bring “a different state of mind” to a property that had a darker, retro vibe. 

“What they’re looking to do here is really transform this resort, and the experience, into something really unique,” Huss said. 

The renovations from McBride Design will use natural tropical tones. All guest rooms, plus hallways and landscapes, are being renovated. The poolside will have tiki-inspired cabanas. The company would not discuss a cost for the renovations. 

This management change and rebrand aren’t the first time the Riviera has undergone changes, including a $70 million renovation around the time of the 2008 Great Recession.

Then in 2015, a company called Tribune Portfolio took over management and began plans to renovate. In 2017, they unveiled their new design that swapped the retro Vegas-style design for a more natural color palette and modern approach. 

Late last year, The Riviera went to the city to propose to convert 163 rooms into time shares. But Rogers and Huss said those plans have been shelved for now, and they aim to operate as a standard hotel for the time being. 

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The Riviera hotel sits on the corner of Indian Canyon Drive and Vista Chino. The hotel opened in 1959. (Photo: Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun)

Pandemic-era planning

The rebranding plans were already underway before the pandemic hit. Initially, the property was going to stay open during the summer off season while undergoing renovations.

But the spring closure of hotels and the general shutdown of leisure travel allowed the team to move up the timeline, and they’ve chosen to stay closed while completing the work, Huss said. 

The closure of the hotel means most of its employees are out of work. But when it’s ready to open, Margaritaville will staff up based on demand, Huss said.

It’s unclear what fall and winter bookings will look like in Palm Springs, with travel and tourism significantly impacted by the rampant spread of the coronavirus. Many people are afraid to travel, with tourism marketing firm Destination Analysts saying on Monday that about half of American travelers don’t have leisure trips planned for 2020.

For the week of July 19-25, hotel occupancy nationwide was 48.1{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c}, compared to 86{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} the same week in2019, according to hospitality date group STR.

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In California, conferences and conventions are still not permitted under state guidelines, and that type of business typically fills up a large portion of Palm Springs hotel rooms during the fall and winter season. The Riviera has more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space. 

Still, Rogers from Margaritaville is bullish that they’ll still be able to run a profitable operation when it opens.

He said their brand has taken over other resorts that have struggled in the past and turned them around with their concept. He pointed to two other Margaritaville hotels that have opened up this year: a Margaritaville Resort in Lake Conroe, Texas, and a Compass by Margaritaville hotel in Bradenton, Fla., which is a new concept for the Margaritaville brand. 

“You can’t just throw your arms up,” Rogers said. “You’ve got to move forward, and we’re all hoping for better days in the future.”

Huss, the general manager, said the city of Palm Springs’ safety protocols and the destination’s location as a drive market from Los Angeles position it to weather the pandemic better than others.

“It’s no doubt that this is a difficult time for the hospitality industry, but from what I’ve seen, Palm Springs has done better than most markets across the county,” he said. 

Melissa Daniels covers local business, hospitality, and economic development in the Coachella Valley. Reach out at (760)-567-8458, [email protected], or on Twitter @melissamdaniels.

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