France: Ritz closes for 27 months, 140 mln. restoration

Glitterati gather for last dinner at the Ritz tonight

31 July, 18:20

(ANSAMed) - PARIS, JULY 31 - As of tomorrow, construction crews will replace the luxury limos usually parked outside Mohamed al-Fayed's historic Ritz Hotel, at 15 Place Vendome.

Last renovated in 1979, the Ritz had been looking a little tired, and so failed to garner the ''palais'' denomination, which is France's maximum hotel category. So for the next 27 months, its 500 employees will be laid off as architect Didier Beautemps and designer Thierry W. Despont oversee a 140-million-euro renovation of the venerable five-star establishment, which has housed the likes of Coco Chanel and Marilyn Monroe, Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway. It was from the Ritz that Dodi al Fayed (Mohamed's son) and Lady Diana left for that last, fatal car ride in the summer of 1997.

The overhaul, to be carried out by Bouygues Construction, will refurbish the hotel's existing 56 suites and 103 rooms, build more suites with larger bathrooms, introduce avant-guarde technology throughout the hotel, add a new restaurant, and enlarge the ballroom. The facade, the roofs, and the Imperial Suite, which reproduces Marie Antoinette's rooms in Versailles, will not be touched because they are classified as landmark monuments.

The objective is to conquer an even wealthier clientele for the Ritz, whose rooms, which start at 850 euros a night, are patronized by a mix of Americans (27%), Russians (10%), British (8%), French (7%), and Middle Easterners (6%). The glitterati are gathering to eat lobster, caviar and duck foie-gras at tonight's 240-euro per person pre-closure dinner, hotel management made known. (ANSAMed).


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