Right after the Grand Prix Montreal, the city’s historic Queen Elizabeth Hotel will shut down for a full year for a massive, $140 million renovation project.
“I think we are going to set a new benchmark for the hotel experience of 2020.” said regional director of sales & marketing Anne Marie Johns. “I look at our competitors. Great hotels in this city. We’re going to be in a league of our own with all that we’re offering.”
All of the guest rooms will be redesigned. The main entrance and lobby, the restaurants, the underground access will all be entirely different. Watch a video detailing the new look hotel by clicking here.
The hotel is especially excited for the new meeting and conference center. The meeting space is growing from 50K square feet to 85K square feet.
“This is going to be the hotel and Fairmont trailblazing into a new area with a vision of our ownership to become more accessible to local corporations to come here to create, innovate and collaborate in a new way.” said Johns.
The new design will also pay tribute to the Queen E’s rich history.
“The whole design of the hotel is going to be classic 1960’s.” Johns said. “Going back to that era when Montreal was put on the map internationally.”
The hotel was built in 1958 ahead of Montreal’s World Exposition in the late 60’s. Since then, it’s hosted countless celebrities and heads of state.
“I’ve seen Nelson Mandela, I’ve seen Boutros Boutros-Ghali when he was secretary general of the United Nations.” said Dwight Rehel, a bellman at the Queen Elizabeth for 34 years. “I’ve seen Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President, when he came to visit. I’ve seen all our Prime Ministers.”
In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a bed-in in suite 1742 to protest the Vietnam War. In that suite, the two wrote and recorded Give Peace a Chance. Yoko Ono has a documentary from the suite posted here, on her YouTube page.
One of the first thing guests ask when they find out the Queen Elizabeth will be closed for a year is ‘what will happen to the about 600 employees?’
Nearly all of them are getting laid off for 9 months and the hotel expects almost all of them will come back.
“For some people, it’s managing to organize themselves and finding work in the mean time if they’re planning to come back or not.” said Rehel the bellman. “For me and many others who have been here a long time, I think it’s mostly nice. It’ll be like a short break.
Dwight the bellman wouldn’t consider going somewhere else neither would maitre d’ Serge LeBlanc.
“When you have the pleasure to work for a serious house and you enjoy what you do and you have a great feeling with the guests,” explained LeBlanc, who has been working at the QEH for more than 42 years. “It’s a feeling of doing your work the best, but you enjoy what you do. And that is a way that you never see the time pass.”
“We’re in the service industry.” said HR director Ilda Palermo. “The staff is the key to our industry, to our success. So, we have to take care of them.”
The Queen Elizabeth has had workshops for employees to help build resumes and help plan for retirement. It even held a job fair in the hotel just last week to help everyone find temporary work until the new look hotel is ready.
Then, with 3 months before grand re-opening, the hotel will call everyone back for training because big changes are coming.
“You see, when I arrived here in ’74, the hotel was quite new. It was in full blast.” said LeBlanc. “Now, when I leave this here with the new start of the place. I don’t want to miss that.”