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'Hotel Hell' Pulls Over The Keating Hotel For Being All Flash, No Cash

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  Site Where: 432 F Street [map], San Diego, CA, United States, 92101
August 28, 2012 at 9:03 AM | by | Comments (2)

Finally, months after learning that The Keating Hotel in San Diego has been selected to appear on Gordon Ramsay's hotel improvement show, Hotel Hell, we get to see at last what was so wrong with the hotel. And it can be summed up in one word--Eddie.

That would be Eddie Kaen (seen below with Gordon), the owner of the hotel who bought the building back in 2000 for $6 million. Eddie never owned or worked in a hotel before but he decided his hotel should be the hotel version of a Ferrari. That meant lots of blood red decor with rooms and furniture designed by Italian car designers.

When the hotel first opened in early 2007, we wrote then that the rooms promised "lux linens, an espresso machine, a giant plasma TV with DVD player and free wired and wireless internet." Not so shortly after, the reviews came in from travel publications and guests alike and they weren't good, essentially saying that the Keating favored design over substance and in many cases, a good night's sleep.

Fast forward five more years and nothing's changed. Guests continue to complain about the "style over substance" mentality and now even the staff is piling on. That is, when they aren't under piles of laundry. Yup, everyone at the Keating has to do laundry from the general manager to the concierges.

Gordon can't get here soon enough.

When he does arrive, Gordon is put off by the nightclubby entrance and the Boston terrier, Smudge, sitting out front. Things get worse as he takes in the red decor of the lobby (the walls and the floor are all the same color.)

A lifestyle concierge greets him at the front desk and then proceeds to check Gordon in. Apparently, the lifestyle concierges do it all from advising on life, to assigning room keys to doing laundry.

Up in his suite, Gordon finds cheap, not very functional furniture and a strange layout that includes a space-age jacuzzi worth $20,000 in the middle of the room. When he pulls back the sheets, he finds they are all wrinkled. For a room that costs $759, Gordon is appalled. (Regular rooms at The Keating, called Stanzas, start at around $250 a night.) And the complaints keep coming--the plants are plastic, the mouthwash tastes awful and the room service is appalling.

For starters, there's crazy items on the menu like a chicken parm slider. Second, the stuff arrives in plastic take-away containers (which Gordon later calls a take away puke box.) Third, the food, which comes from the hotel's restaurant next door, The Merk, just isn't very good. But most importantly, the room service orders are sent through the front desk who then sends them onto the restaurant.

Gordon decides to confront the man who's running this place. And he lays into Eddie. Eddie is obviously defensive, saying Gordon's comments are bullshit. But at the same time, Eddie admits to not having actually stayed in a hotel in a while and it doesn't help that his property is millions of dollars in debt. Gordon reassures Eddie that he is here to help but that he needs Eddie to start identifying the problems for him. Eddie agrees and then Gordon goes behind his back and says Eddie looks like a baby who just had his lollipop stolen. Zing!

Then Gordon goes downstairs and watches the guests coming in and out of the lobby. And boy are there problems like dirty rooms, sand in the bed and a seriously pissed off woman who's been trying to get a cheese plate delivered to her room for the past 45 minutes. This latter incident spurs Gordon to head over to The Merk restaurant and see just what is up. And thus the Kitchen Nightmares segment of the show begins.

Gordon first encounters the waiter who is about to deliver the flimsy cheese plate, priced at $16.99. After a string of cusses, Gordon then meets Aaron, a restaurant manager who has douchey deflections for why the cheese plate hasn't been sent up to the guest. Finally, Gordon sits down and begins ordering his dinner. The restaurant's other manager, David, takes his order while at the same time saying he wouldn't serve his dog any of the restaurant's food.

As predicted, everything is horrible especially the dessert which is a chocolate, strawberry and bacon pizza that for lack of a better description looks like smeared doody. Gordon confronts the chef, Brian, who admits he didn't even cook anything nor taste anything before it went out. Then the drama heightens as Brian collapses after telling Gordon how the stress of running the kitchen, and a menu with 150 items on it, is too much for him to handle. 911 is called and Brian is whisked away to the hospital.

Eddie tries to blame Gordon for the chef's collapse but Gordon throws it right back in Eddie's face, telling him he has overburdened the chef. The next day, Gordon visits Brian at home and finds him well enough to come to work to start working on changing the restaurant, and the hotel, around.

And so the blame game begins with Sandra, the hotel's general manager, practically begging Eddie to start listening to her and the other team members at the hotel about how to run things rather than just telling them to implement his ideas. (Eddie says at the start of the episode, "If I see something that I want on the menu, [the chef] should be able to do it.")

When Gordon asks the team "Who is the most important person at the hotel?", everyone says Eddie. Eddie meanwhile says Sandra. Wrong, says Gordon. The most important person is (chime in here with us) the guest. And on that note, he whisks Sandra and Eddie away to his suite where guests of the hotel are gathered to voice their complaints. Eddie's initial reaction? "Oh f*ck." Sandra's reaction? "I just want to run away." But the intervention really hits home for Eddie about what needs to change, especially when none of the guests offer to return. (This is starting to become the show's dependable turning point, btw.)

Then the hotel's transformation begins. Gordon works with Brian in the kitchen to simplify the menu. The design team comes in and changes up the decor, adding white walls and a cool photography display in the lobby. The suite has been made cozier with plush seating and bedding and chairs and tables that you can actually sit on. Gordon also gives the hotel a trial run with a linen company to do their laundry. Sandra is crying at this offer. Finally, as a general manager she won't have to do laundry!

And lastly, the room service has been streamlined with calls going directly to the kitchen and orders brought up on real plates, not takeaway boxes, leaving the front desk to actually concentrate on the guest.

As we suspected from The Keating's eagerness to publicize their appearance on the show, all ends well. Eddie is ok with the employees telling him no, Brian gets a new white chef's jacket and guests are loving both the hotel and the restaurant.

But have things really changed at The Keating? Judging by their website, the regular rooms still sport the old furniture which is neither stylish nor functional. And the recent reviews on TripAdvisor show that guests are still having issues with the nightclub noise, something that was not addressed at all on "Hotel Hell." And whatever happened to Smudge? We never saw him again. Hopefully, he made it out ok.

Next week, Hotel Hell truly descends into hell at the disgusting River Rock Inn in Pennsylvania. We're gonna need a lot of alcohol for this episode.

[Photos: Facebook and The Keating Hotel]

Comments (2)

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Hell is red

Usually shows save the best episodes for the premiere and season finale, but these shows just keep getting better and better when we see how mismanaged these hotels.  I am so hooked on this show that I watched it while getting ready for work.  My Dish coworker and I started watching Gordon on MasterChef, and now I'm ashamed to say I'm a junkie.  What makes it so easy to be a Ramsey junkie though is with four shows on TV, I can watch them all in the morning because the Auto Hop feature lets me watch commercial free on PrimeTime Anytime recordings.  That time I save without commercials means I can get out of the house and to work on time while still seeing the recent hotel debacle, and talk about it at work too.

Nothing changed.

Nothing changed at this place. They have only the one room that has been changed and call it "The Gordon Ramsey suite" then try to charge 1000+ dollars for it. The staff is pretentious as ever. Most of them gloat about being on the show as if it's a good thing. Seriously people, get over yourselves. It's a bunch of idiots working for a man-child. The Merk is a joke still. Either Gordons recipes are garbage or the people there can't cook. You have to pay for wireless internet that is no better than dial-up. They can't get simple things right like wakup calls and when I stayed there, a bunch of kids were partying on the same floor making all kinds of noise. This doesn't surprise me since this place is run by children.

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