June 08, 2005

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court, settling conflicting opinions from the lower courts, ruled that foreign-flag cruise ships must abide by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act when in U.S. waters. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing for the majority, said modifications for disabled passengers should be made where barrier removal is "readily achievable." In a press statement, the International Council of Cruise Lines, a trade group representing the major cruise lines, said it "welcomes the U.S. Supreme Court's decision," which "recognized the complexity of the application of domestic U.S. laws to ships at sea." In its statement about the ruling, Norwegian Cruise Line called the decision a "reaffirmation of the principle that discrimination against persons with special needs is unacceptable."

On Monday, New York's Public Authorities Control Board definitively rejected plans to build a $2.2 billion stadium for the New York Jets on the far West Side of Manhattan. The board, controlled by New York Governor George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate leader Joseph Bruno, had final say on the fate of the controversial project, which faced opposition from some community leaders and politicians, in addition to the owners of Madison Square Garden. The demise of the stadium plan is seen as a major blow to New York City's hope of winning the 2012 Olympic Games as well as a political setback for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, who both had championed the project. "Those that were on the other side will have to explain why they were against jobs, why they were against economic opportunity and growth, why they are against us having a shot at the 2012 Olympics," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement following the board's rejection of the stadium.

The Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council endured yet another slam to its solidarity Friday when the Millennium Biltmore, one of seven remaining properties in the group, struck a private deal with hotel employee group Unite HERE. Like the Wilshire Grand one week before it, the Biltmore agreed to advocate within the council for a 2006 expiration date, the union's most contested contract demand. In return, the union, which has been boycotting all LAHEC properties during negotiations, agreed to ease its Biltmore boycott. On Monday, LAHEC filed a complaint against the union with the National Labor Relations Board for its negotiations with individual member properties. "We think the law on this is clear, and that these negotiations are illegal," LAHEC spokesperson Fred Muir told M&C. "We know that the union approached [the Millennium Biltmore and the Wilshire Grand], and frankly they've approached other hotels who've rebuffed them." Unite HERE, however, is not intimidated by the complaint. "The solidarity of the hotel workers and the effectiveness of [encouraging guests to] boycott is paying off," said Tom Walsh, secretary treasurer of Unite HERE Local 11. By 5:00 p.m. tomorrow, Unite HERE will have to accept or decline LAHEC's most recent proposal -- offering a 20 percent wage hike, a $1,000 signing bonus and free health care, but not a 2006 expiration date.

The $271 million Connecticut Convention Center opened in Hartford last Thursday, hosting the Connecticut XPO for Business 2005, a local event that drew 550 exhibitors. With 140,000 square feet of exhibit space, the center is the first completed component of Adriaen's Landing, a revitalization project on 30 acres of land along the Connecticut River in downtown Hartford. The project includes plans for a new science center and a 409-room Marriott hotel due to open Aug. 1, as well as retail and residential properties. The Islamic Circle of North America will hold the CCC's first major convention July 1 to 3.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises withdrew its proposal yesterday to build a new convention center on its property along the Cuyahoga River, leaving the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Authority no choice but to proceed with plans to renovate the existing Cleveland Convention Center. Attention now turns to how to finance the project, estimated at $400 million. A spokesperson for Forest City Enterprises declined to comment on the reasons for the company's withdrawal.

New York City-based Loews Hotels will build its first Nevada hotel at the Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, 12 miles south of Las Vegas. The entertainment complex already has two hotels, a 496-room Hyatt Regency and a 349-room Ritz-Carlton. The $200 million Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort will have approximately 400 rooms, two restaurants, a spa and 40,000 square feet of meeting space, including an exhibit center. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2006, with an opening in 2008. The hotel will be just off the 18th hole of the resort's Reflection Bay Golf Club.

In other Loews news, after 29 years with the company, Charlotte St. Martin, executive vice president of marketing, will leave the chain at the end of this month to start her own marketing, operations and consulting firm for the hospitality industry. St. Martin told M&C, "I plan to take three months off first, because I have not had more than two weeks off since I was 12 years old. I am still in the planning stages for my company, but Loews has already agreed to be my first client."

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has announced a new hotel brand. Currently referred to as Project XYZ, the as-yet-unnamed brand, which will be the hotel chain's eighth, will give Starwood a presence in the mid-tier market, currently dominated by Marriott International and Hilton Hotels, whose portfolios include Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, Staybridge Suites and Summerfield Suites. According to Starwood, the brand will have the fashion and whimsy of its W chain, but at more affordable rates. The hotels also will feature flexible meeting space. The first XYZ hotel is scheduled to open in 2007, with 500 expected to open by year-end 2015. Point cities for development include Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Cambridge, Mass.; Tampa, Fla.; Minneapolis; and Palo Alto, Calif.

Plans for the first W Hotel in the Caribbean were revealed last week. The 156-room W Vieques - Martineau Bay will be on the secluded island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico. The hotel will be a complete redesign of the Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort & Spa. Starwood will assume management of the property as of July 8 and will run the property unbranded until fall 2006, when it will be granted the W flag. Also in the pipeline: the W Hollywood Hotel & Residences. Set next door to the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, the 300-room property will offer a 9,200-square-foot spa, a 25-yard lap pool and 16,000 square feet of function space. The property is expected to open by 2008.