/ Modified jan 10, 2024 12:21 p.m.

The Gadsden Hotel lays off employees, temporarily closes restaurant and bar

20 out of 32 employees across the hotel and restaurant were laid off two days after the Christmas holiday

Gadsden Hotel 1 The lobby of the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, AZ. January 4, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

Just two days after Christmas, the majority of the employees at the historic Gadsden Hotel in Douglas were laid off.

Co-owner and co-partner of the Gadsden Hotel Sukhchain "Ken" Sandhu said about 20 employees out of a total of 32 were laid off on December 27 across the hotel and restaurant. Co-owners Sandhu, Balwant Aulck and Rashpal Thind wrote on the hotel’s Facebook page in the past year, the hotel has lost two hundred-thousand dollars.

When asked about what caused that loss in funds, Sandhu said, “It’s a small town … People have been very supportive, you know, since we opened, the community has been wonderful, the city has been wonderful, but there’s so much people can do ...

The reason we made these changes is that the hotel has … pretty close to 100 rooms and there’s only, like, 22 rooms that are functional," Sandhu continued. "The other rooms we are going to renovate. We have a demo permit. So we thought when more people will stay at the hotel, that's how the restaurant will get busy."

Sandhu said the hotel’s bar and restaurant are closed temporarily, but the hotel and lobby remain open.

"Our payroll was pretty high, the expenses were pretty high," said Sandhu. "We were pulling money every day to make sure every payroll check should clear, right? We tried our best ... We took loans on our homes in order to buy this property."

The hotel’s former manager Tanya Duarte was also laid off and wrote to AZPM that “This move was unexpected and had a great negative impact on the employees who fully expected to have their jobs in place after a short maintenance and cleaning closure during the holidays.”

Sandhu said they currently have a demolition permit in hand with a goal to do renovations, which include adding a fire sprinkler system and new heating and air conditioning systems to the hotel.

"In the meantime, this historic building that you can't just go start knocking out the walls," he said. "So you have to follow those rules, the historic society of Arizona. The lobby is going to pretty much stay the same ... But the upper floors, there will be new furniture after the renovation.

Sandhu said that the community can expect to see the work begin on the renovations by the end of January.

Gadsden Hotel 2 The Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, AZ. January 4, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

Sandhu, Aulck and Thind also own a hotel in Willcox, and bought the Gadsden Hotel in November of 2022.

"When we bought that property in Willcox, in the meantime, Gadsden was also on sale," said Sandhu. "And so, the deal was made. And we thought 'it's not to far, it's only about an hour away.' So we end up buying it."

The news of the staff layoffs and temporary closure of the restaurant and bar came during a 10-day closure for maintenance.

"And during that time, all three partners had a meeting and thought 'you know, why don't we just close it just for a bit longer and step back, and then, re-open,'" Sandhu said. He added that meeting occurred on December 26 and employees were notified of the lay offs on the the next day.

Within the Facebook post made on December 28, the owners wrote "We are extremely disheartened by the comments on Facebook, especially when the language contains racism, endangerment of people's lives, and defamation ... We are proud citizens of a great nation on this planet earth and have been paying our taxes for over 38 years."

Sandhu said one comment said "They closed because of Palestine" — a reference to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

"The only thing we can spread is love," he said. "They need to know that we've been here for 30-35 years, our kids were born here, we're American citizens, we were born in India and we worked hard. And we're still working hard."

Moving forward, Sandhu said the plan is to re-open the restaurant and bar at some point. A date and timeline for the restaurant and bar's reopening has yet to be announced.

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