UPDATE: Closure of Urbana's Garden Hotel means loss of jobs for staff

UPDATE: Closure of Urbana's Garden Hotel means loss of jobs for staff

URBANA — More than 20 employees at Urbana’s Garden Hotel, many of them “living paycheck to paycheck,” will be losing their jobs as the hotel takes on a project to completely replace a faulty fire-alarm system.

Urbana fire officials ordered the 198-room hotel at 1001 Killarney St. to close Wednesday after it was discovered the fire-alarm system was not communicating with the monitoring panel.

The city has been working with the hotel’s general manager for several weeks to address the fire-alarm system malfunctions. City Administrator Carol Mitten called the faulty system a “major life-safety hazard.”

But for hotel manager Salim Hotelwala, the closure means rebooking 135 rooms through Expedia and other booking agents to his competitors, at a potential cost of between $25,000 and $30,000.

“We are committed to replace the whole fire-alarm system as soon as possible,” Hotelwala said in a statement. “We are sorry for the adverse impact on our customers and employees, but their safety must come first.”

Hotelwala added that his staff of 20 will lose its jobs, as replacing the fire-alarm system could cost up to $90,000, and take between three and five weeks.

He said in an average month, the hotel makes an average of $90,000, so paying staff with no guests is out of the question.

Once the fire-alarm system is fully operational, the hotel will be allowed to reopen.

The Ramada by Wyndham just across the street has already booked some of the guests from the Garden Hotel who have had to move. But the nearby Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Suites are all booked up.

“I feel very bad about this,” Hotelwala told The News-Gazette. “I feel very sick today. My employees lost their jobs. Many of them don’t have money to pay their rent. I cannot pay them because I don’t have business. I’m losing a team of very good employees.”