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'Hotel Hell' Saves The Hellish Juniper Hill Inn...Barely

August 15, 2012 at 9:04 AM | by | ()

When Hotel Hell left off on Monday night with the Juniper Hill Inn, things were dire--the owners were refusing to accept blame for driving the inn into the ground while at the same time verbally abusing their staff in front of master chef turned hotel fixer Gordon Ramsay. But by the end of the episode, there's a warm and fuzzy feeling throughout the inn, although we suspect that might be due to the beer being served in the new bar rather than real deep-seated change.

Ramsay decides he needs to talk calmly and rationally with owner Robert Dean, rather than telling him to "get f-cking real" and shouting other obscenities at him (although, they were well-deserved.) So Ramsay visits Robert in the RV that he and his partner Ari have parked outside next to the inn (no, we're not making that up) and has a frank discussion with him about the inn's finances.

We learn that in the months of November and December of 2011, Robert and Ari let 49 people stay at the inn for free. Like totally free--meals and drinks too. Robert said he'd rather fill the place up with comp'd guests to make it more lively. These friends were supposed to leave a tip for the staff but the money never made it to the poor employees.

When Ramsay pressures Robert to find out what happens to the tips by calling one of the guests, we hear the guest say, "We left the money with you." Ramsay storms out of the RV convinced that Robert and Ari pocketed the money for themselves.

We don't know for sure what happened to the tip money but Ramsay collects himself again and works out a plan with Robert to sell all the junk, er, antiques, that he has stashed all over the property. Robert agrees and thinks they can get $300,000-$400,000 for all their "collectibles." WRONG.

An auctioneer from Boston comes by to look at the stuff and bravely hides her disgust at all the fake artwork and copied silverware long enough to tell Robert that his accumulation of faux fancy items is worth only about $25,000. Burn. But it finally hits home to Robert that his spending is out of control and that he needs to change.

From there, he and Ramsay work to make amends with the staff (Robert also confesses "we're sorry for taking the tips") and luckily for him, his staff is not only willing to forgive but ready to get started on the changes. One poor soul says Robert's apology to the staff made him want to "stand up and clap."

Finally, we get back into the hotel side of things when Ramsay has the current batch of guests confront the owners in guestroom and tell them what was wrong with their stay. Think of it like TripAdvisor Reviewers In Real Life. The guests' biggest complaint was the reception area in that they had no clue where to go and where to check-in. Another guest also said the rooms were a little chilly. Then Ramsay sneakily announces one guest is a lead inspector for Diamond Collection Inns. This one Stephen Tallon says the place "didn't meet expectations", chiefly, the bar is a joke and while the hospitality was nice, everything else was not.

Not surprisingly, Ari was dismissive of the guest reactions admitting that he would rather the inn be his own private home rather than an inn. Ay, ay ay.

The episode then focuses on making over the restaurant with chef Giulian cooking up a new prix-fixe dinner for the inn which is priced at $29 compared to the old $74. Robert, fooled into thinking Ramsay cooked the meal, is delighted with the new options and even when he finds out it was Giulian who created the meal, is more than willing to go along with the changes.

Ramsay's team then does their patented makeover job on the hotel, revamping the reception area ("editing" down Robert's garish antique collection), adding more signage and fixing up the restaurant. They even take a cue from the local brewery and put in a new "Blue Bar" which serves up beer and appetizers in a cozy setting complete with a fireplace and table games. As for the guestrooms, Ramsay's team changed nothing there except in the smelly sewage room which just needed a plumber's magic touch.

Meanwhile, Ramsay is adamant that Robert be the face of the inn while his partner Ari sticks to the back of the house. This proves hard for Ari to do as on the day the inn has guests over to check out all their changes, Ari is wandering around meddling and snapping at the assistant innkeeper for trying to keep his dog from eating food in the bar. "Excuse me, I am the boss," he snaps at her. Later he apologizes but we aren't sure he will really change.

Despite this, things end very well for Juniper Hill Inn. They've got a new restaurant, a confident chef in the kitchen, a fun new bar, guests milling about and suspiciously magically, a Diamond Collection plaque designating it a Diamond Collection pick. (We later learned you can simply pay to belong to this collection so long as you meet a bunch of requirements first.)

Yet as Ramsay leaves the property, Robert and Ari's garish RV is still parked at the side of the inn and there are still three huge storage boxes on another part of the property. Ugh. And even though Ramsay asked them to bring down room rates from the $350 a night, two-night minimum price point, when we checked hotel's rates on their website today, most rooms still averaging about $300 a night in peak season.

Then again, there could be a real chance at redemption here for Juniper Hill Inn, if they keep working at it (i.e. keep Ari in the back of the house, keep Robert from comping all his friends and buying antiques.) Plus a commenter left us this note yesterday:

[Being] a fellow local innkeeper and knowing the Juniper Hill from afar, we are amazed that the TV episodes were so revealing, as it takes guts to allow your personal weaknesses to be revealed to one and all.

We have recently eaten there again and the whole dining experience was much improved, but they certainly have a long slope to climb and we wish them luck!

As do we. Next up for Hotel Hell? The Cambridge Hotel in upstate New York which sadly, does not have a happy ending.

Archived Comments:

New Owners ?

After watching this last night i visited trip adviser and there are a few good reviews but the owners are named as "Jim and Tracy"-
was this hotel sold on after this to new owners ?
if so, old Gordon did a sly job or was the whole thing a set up?

Innkeepers only

I believe the story referred to "Jim and Tracy" as the "innkeepers", but not the owners. I was confused at first, too.

Innkeepers only

I believe the story referred to "Jim and Tracy" as the "innkeepers", but not the owners. I was confused at first, too.