BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — COVID-19 has impacted numerous industries, creating stay at home orders and bans on large gatherings. Which left the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center forced to furlough all of their hourly employees.
“Almost everyone was furloughed immediately,” said Tony Zilobaf, General Manager of the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center in Downtown Bakersfield. Zilobaf said having to reduce his staff has weighed on him. “It does leave some negative effects on your soul,” he said.
On average he said the hotel employees around 160 employees staff members but when the COVID-19 outbreak hit the hotel was only able to keep on about 10 salaried staff members. Denise Burns, Director of Catering and Mayra Chavez, Director of Sales, were two of the employees who stayed working. Both telling 23ABC they had to learn new trades in their industry.
“Folding towels, putting all the sheets through the dryer,” said Chavez. “Mopping the lobby floor to cleaning the gym and scrubbing toilets. Which I am not by all means above that. I will do whatever it takes to keep our staff and clients safe and healthy,” said Burns.
Burns said it was a scary time to witness the hotel change almost overnight. Especially seeing her friends and colleagues furloughed. “...That makes me emotional because I've worked with these people for so many years and to see their lives change literally overnight was devastating. Walking through the hotel seeing everything dark and you know usually we’re high volume. We sometimes get a thousand people coming through... and it was devastating. It was heartbreaking,” she said.
Soon the hotel became a sanctuary for first responders. “I had been hotel jumping for a while then I landed here. The personnel here the management staff...Tony, Denise, Mayra made me feel so comfortable. They were just over the top welcoming,” said Dr. Hemmal Kothary, Chief Medical Officer for CommonSpirit Health Central California Division.
However, the hotel's sales numbers dropped to nearly nothing in a matter of a week. “We just had in one-week, devastating cancellations. So, it just hit us immediately,” said Philip E. Barney, CEO of Barney Hospitality LLC, who manages the hotel property.
According to hotel staff, their occupancy rate was typically around 90% during a healthy economy. Once COVID-19 hit their occupancy fell to 5%. “We definitely are struggling a lot. Our numbers went down a lot...,” said Chavez.
With the economy reopening the hotel has been able to bring back about 50 employees. “Within the last month I've been bringing people back just to do work that we can find for them to do, that helps give them some stability,” said Barney.
Chavez said she is happy to see some of her colleagues filling the hallways of the hotel again. “Being able to see a lot of our staff members back... the restaurant, bartenders, our lounge employees, our housekeepers... it makes me happy,” she said.
Zilobaf told 23ABC that no matter the situation a successful business always finds a way to adapt and he is proud to serve the local community.
“Things will pass on before you know it and I say this shall pass too. We need to come together. We as the society, as the community, we need to think more about other. Otherwise we lose what little we have now,” said Zilobaf.