We are open for business, better than before

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Holiday Inn Windsor owner Nick Desai Jr. wants everyone to know that his hotel has been renovated and deep-cleaned and is ready for business.

For 11 months in 2021, Sonoma County used the facility to house homeless people and others vulnerable to COVID-19.

In addition to being modernized and sanitized, the hotel has also opened a new restaurant, the Windsor Bar and Grill.

“We want to let it be known that we’re open and have been extensively renovated, and we’re back now, even better than before,” Desai said in a recent interview. “It’s rare that a property has the ability to do this when it’s been open for less than five years.”

The hotel, which opened in September 2017, has 100 rooms, but only about half were occupied at the start of the pandemic, according to Desai, who is a controller for a management company and oversees the management of the hotel.

The hotel was closed for three months starting in April, after county residents left when Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for the program ran out.

Renovations, which included repairing any damage and replacing so-called “soft items” such as mattresses and other bedding items in each room, began soon after.

Curtains and carpets in rooms and common areas have been professionally cleaned; everything had to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards.

The hotel also had to comply with a long checklist of conditions imposed by the Intercontinental Hotels Group’s franchise inspectors.

Every room has been repainted, including walls and doors, said Mohammad Rana, catering manager and temporary chef. Rana was there and helped with the closure and renovation of the hotel, not to be confused with the Holiday Inn Express in Windsor where he also worked.

Rana, who studied in London and has served as food and beverage manager at other Intercontinental and five-star hotels, has tried different dishes, including a variety of sauces for chicken wings and, recently, flat breads.

The Windsor Bar and Grill replaces the Tisza Bistro and Bar, which was a Hungarian restaurant.

“We wanted to move quickly and open, but we are part of the (Holiday Inn) franchise and we need a restaurant to open the hotel,” Rana said.

“The name of the restaurant may sound basic, but what we serve is not basic,” Desai added.

He and Rana said the restaurant’s main courses were European cuisine, which Desai called “modern European fusion – to cater to all clienteles”.

“It’s not a basic mom and pop bar and grill,” Desai said. “We operate a full-service bar and grill with cocktails.”

Their fish and chips are European-style, and their fish and shrimp tacos and beet salad are “a must,” Rana said.

The restaurant also offers small bites like four kinds of sliders and bruschetta. Starters like New York steak, salmon, and a variety of desserts like creme brulee and bitter chocolate mousse are also on the menu. They’re interviewing for a permanent boss.

Business has been tough for the hospitality industry since late 2019 when COVID-19 hit the United States and hotels and restaurants began closing in 2020.

“The first eight to ten months of 2020 have been horrible; we were getting less than 10% occupancy and had to lay off or give employees one shift a week to keep them working,” Desai said.

When the county offered to rent out some of their rooms, “it was a way to keep the hotel afloat and not see the property sink” like so many others, Desai said.

“It also kept employees afloat. The county also provided food, so catering workers were on board,” he said.

Other employees were hired to provide housekeeping services, for a total of 20 to 25 jobs saved, he said.

Now that they are once again receiving tourist traffic from everywhere, Desai is once again trying to generate business with local clientele, such as Windsor-based businesses and local tourists from neighboring counties, he said.

“We want businesses to know that we have 2,500 square feet of banquet space and a conference room available for hire for their corporate meetings and events. They can also be used for tourists coming to host their rehearsal dinners or receptions,” Desai said.

Windsor Chamber of Commerce executive director Beth Henry said hotels “are an important part of our hospitality landscape. We want to be able to accommodate visitors within our borders so they can enjoy all that Windsor has to offer.

“I hope they celebrate with a big ribbon cutting so the city can welcome them back into the community,” she said. “They invested a lot of time and money in renovating the interior. I was there and it was wonderful.

You can reach editor Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.


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