Hotel Henry ending business operations due to pandemic

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center released a statement Tuesday saying it will cease operations effective February 27 citing a crippling pandemic environment.

With the ongoing restrictions businesses face during the pandemic, Sublessor, Richardson Center Development Corporation (RCDC), and Sublessee, Hotel Henry, agreed to terminate the initial 10-year lease term in advance of the expiration of the agreement.

“As Hotel Henry entered 2020, the business was on track to a second year of a healthy profit.  The global pandemic completely changed that,” said Dennis Murphy, Hotel Henry Company Member. “There is no doubt Hotel Henry was fiscally battered in 2020 with 75 percent of projected revenue lost to COVID’s impact, but we continued to evolve our business model to pivot toward every opportunity to persevere into 2021 and to honor the hotel’s commitments.  Hotel Henry is a casualty of a pandemic that unfortunately has put us and many United States hotels out of business.”

When asked if Hilton would be taking over Hotel Henry, Murphy provided this answer:

“Hotel Henry Buffalo CURIO Collection by Hilton is a franchise our business invested in. In 2019, Hilton awarded us the prestigious franchise as a CURIO Hotel. We refrained from introducing the CURIO brand until COVID was subsiding.  Hence you see our franchise on the Hilton web site as April 2021-coming soon. We have not sold our business to Hilton. Further Hilton does not own hotels. It franchises and manages for others.”

Dennis Murphy

Opened in April 2017, Hotel Henry has received national recognition, including being named one of Time Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places in 2018. No information was released on if operations will resume in the future.

“Hotel Henry has been great to work with and transparent with us about the challenges they have been facing,” said Mark Mortenson, President, Richardson Center Corporation. 

Now those who had future events booked there are left wondering what to do.

“With each of our guests and clients, we are communicating directly with those affected by this news, as so many variables of programs exist,” Murphy says. “Further, the Hotel Henry team is sorting through current matters related to this decision.  We will have continuing updates and share information as it becomes available.”

Matt Murphy and his fiancé Abby Milliron originally had their wedding scheduled for October 2020, but with COVID-19 restrictions, were forced to reschedule to May 12, 2021. Murphy tells News 4 after the couple rescheduled, the last they heard from Hotel Henry management was that they would discuss their event in January.

“We waited until Jan. 12 to contact them after we hadn’t heard anything. No response,” Murphy wrote in an email. “A week later we reached out again and got an automated response immediately explaining that they were going on a ‘winter recess’ and that they would return on the 15 of February.”

Murphy said he found out from the news the Hotel would be closing before he heard from the Hotel.

Jonathan Domino and Emily Post had a similar experience. They were all set to get married at Hotel Henry this summer until they received a phone call from a relative Tuesday letting them know their wedding venue would be closing.

“I was outside clearing the driveway and get a phone call,” Domino said. “So I have to go open the door and look at her and tell her and say ‘hey, our wedding venue canceled on us…again.”

This is the second time the Williamsville couple had to find a new venue. Their first one, the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Buffalo, permanently closed last spring.

“The fist time we were like ‘you know, it happens.,'” Post said. “To happen two times, we were like seriously? We both looked at each other like, we couldn’t believe it.”

And experts fear other local hotels could be forced to close as well, as COVID-19 continues to halt travel plans.

“This has been a devatstaing time for the tourism industry. Our hotel occupancy overall for 2020 was down 47-percent,” said Patrick Kaler, President and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. “To get to a place of normalcy, we’re going to need more vaccinations in place, consumer confidence to be on the rise as well.”

Those with future events booked at Hotel Henry tell News 4 management has reached out by email to set up a time where they can speak about the cancelations and deposits.

Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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