Jekyll hotel closing down

The Brunswick News

By ERIKA CAPEK
1/25/2011

The Jekyll Oceanfront Clarion Resort on Jekyll Island will close its doors Monday.

Jekyll Island Authority officials were notified Friday by hotel general manager Michelle Blackstone that the oceanfront facility at 975 N. Beachview Drive would be closed.

The closure comes at a time when the state is pumping millions of dollars into new, modern facilities and making plans to increase the number of conventions on the island.

Blackstone notified the authority by e-mail of the company's plans for the 260-room and villas hotel.

"It is with great sadness that I must let you know that Mr. Leslie Lurken, the owner of the Jekyll Oceanfront Clarion Resort, has decided to permanently close the hotel," she wrote.

No reason was given why Lurken was closing the hotel, but room revenue was down 10 percent from 2009 to 2010, dropping from $2.3 million to $2.1 million, according to Jekyll Island Authority documents.

During calendar 2010, Jekyll Oceanfront Clarion Resort had the lowest occupancy rate of hotels on Jekyll Island, at 34.6 percent.

When Oceanfront Resort was remodeled in spring 2008, the plan relied on converting units to condominiums that would be sold. That idea washed away with the ebbing real estate market and economy.

Blackstone said staff will contact people and groups with reservations and try to relocate them on Jekyll Island.

"It is an emotional time for everyone right now," Blackstone wrote. How many people are employed at the hotel and whether plans had been made to find them new jobs was not immediately available.

Eric Garvey, spokesman for the Jekyll Island Authority, said the authority is concerned about the property closing on such short notice.

He said it received an indication that the owner wants to sell the property and is optimistic that a new owner will take over. However, no official notification about any potential sale had been received, as of Monday.

"We're anxiously awaiting the plan for what happens next," Garvey said. He said the authority will do what it can to help the hotel's employees find jobs.

The Jekyll Oceanfront Clarion Resort was constructed in 1971 as the Sand Dollar Motel. The original complex included 263 rooms and small apartments, a swimming pool, restaurant and lounge.

From 1979 to 1987, it operated as the Jekyll Hilton Inn. From 1992 to 1997 it was the Best Western Jekyll Inn, and from 1997 to the early 2000s it was the Jekyll Inn.

The Clarion is the third hotel in less than eight years to close. In December 2003, the Georgia Coast Inn ceased operation after the owner went into bankruptcy.

In May 2006, the Holiday Inn closed its doors.

The property was redeveloped and the Hampton Inn and Suites opened in its place.