Al­ready-busy ho­tels scram­bling to help

San Francisco Chronicle - - BUSINESS REPORT - By Kate Gal­braith

Michael Pace woke up Mon­day morn­ing and quickly grasped the scope of the dis­as­ter that had set Wine Coun­try ablaze.

“I could see the fires burn­ing,” said Pace, who lives in No­vato and works in San Fran­cisco as the West Coast area gen­eral man­ager for the com­pany that owns the Clift ho­tel.

He de­cided to hold avail­able rooms at the Clift for peo­ple af­fected by the fires, and of­fered a $99 rate — in­clud­ing free break­fast and park­ing — to evac­uees. Those who lost their homes could stay free for a few weeks. Run­ning out of space, he con­verted meet­ing rooms into bed­rooms and even added some roll­aways to the board­room.

“We just wanted to do what­ever we could,” said Pace.

Through­out the Bay Area, ho­tel man­agers are rapidly shift­ing their plans. Some ho­tels are al­ready full, be­cause fall is a pop­u­lar time for con­ven­tions. But many in the East Bay and San Fran­cisco are re­ceiv­ing a flood of in­quiries from peo­ple flee­ing the fires, or hop­ing to re­lo­cate events. Some North Bay ho­tels that re­main open are packed with fire­fight­ers, evac­uees and jour­nal­ists; oth­ers are see­ing can­cel­la­tions.

“It’s been very hec­tic and quite crazy,” said Ste­fan Mühle, area man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for No­ble House Ho­tels & Re­sorts, which runs the Arg­onaut and Ho­tel Zoe in San Fran­cis-

co. In ad­di­tion to evac­uees, the ho­tel has been hear­ing from stranded tourists who had planned to go to Wine Coun­try and peo­ple whose flights to or from San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port were can­celed be­cause of the smoke. It’s also hous­ing some dis­placed staff mem­bers and of­fer­ing help to friends and fam­i­lies of af­fected em­ploy­ees.

No­ble House has al­ready re­lo­cated a cor­po­rate meet­ing, sched­uled to be held at the com­pany’s River Ter­race Inn in Napa, to the Arg­onaut and Ho­tel Zoe next week.

For many event plan­ners, find­ing a new venue may not be easy.

“It’s a very busy time right now any­way,” said Kevin Car­roll, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ho­tel Coun­cil of San Fran­cisco. Con­ven­tions are in full swing, with Or­a­cle’s OpenWorld just over and Sales­force’s Dream­force sched­uled for early Novem­ber in San Fran­cisco.

Madi­son Au­gust, events and mar­ket­ing man­ager at the Berke­ley City Club, said the ho­tel was in talks to host some re­lo­cated wed­dings (in ad­di­tion to tak­ing in sev­eral fam­i­lies who es­caped the fires). It is work­ing with other venues in the area to com­pile a list of places avail­able on par­tic­u­lar days — so “if we’re not avail­able, we can re­fer them to some­one,” Au­gust said.

Like the Clift and the No­ble ho­tels, the Berke­ley City Club is of­fer­ing spe­cial rates to evac­uees. (The Sonoma Val­ley Vis­i­tors Bu­reau has a list on its web­site of ho­tels with dis­counted rates: www.sono­maval­ fire.) Airbnb, the short­term lodg­ing ser­vice, is en­cour­ag­ing hosts in parts of the Bay area to of­fer space in their homes to those af­fected.

McCalls Cater­ing and Events in San Fran­cisco has had a few calls from peo­ple try­ing to re­lo­cate their wed­dings, some “in a panic state,” said Lu­cas Schoe­maker, the com­pany’s pres­i­dent.

He’s also scram­bling to get enough wine for his events. “Where we usu­ally get 20 cases from some dis­trib­u­tors, we are now only get­ting five cases,” he said. De­liv­er­ies from Amer­i­can Canyon now need a 10-day win­dow in­stead of one, he said.

The chal­lenges for event plan­ners will con­tinue in the weeks and months ahead.

Ben Maul plans to get mar­ried in Santa Rosa on Nov. 18. The 124-room Foun­tain­grove Inn, where the cou­ple had in­tended to house 20 to 30 wed­ding guests, burned.

“We still have our house, you know, and that’s bet­ter than I can say for a lot of peo­ple,” Maul said. Even so, “This is a lot of ex­cite­ment we did not need to have hap­pen.” He lives with his fi­ancee in Santa Rosa, so the so­lu­tion, he said, may in­clude hav­ing more peo­ple stay at his home and friends’ homes. “We’re go­ing to have to be more in­ven­tive.”

The Vint­ners Inn, where the cou­ple plans to hold their cer­e­mony, has so far es­caped the fires. So the wed­ding is still on.

“If the Vint­ners doesn’t make it, we’ll just have to go get Elvis to marry us in Ve­gas,” Maul said wryly.

Pho­tos by Ma­son Trinca / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Wine Coun­try evac­uees Lu­ciano Tris­tan (cen­ter) and Ju­lia Harkins watch Face­book Live video up­dates from the Sonoma County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice in a meet­ing room where the fam­ily is stay­ing at the Clift ho­tel in S.F.

Tris­tan plays with his 1-year-old son, Luca Tris­tan, at the Clift, which is of­fer­ing spe­cial or free rates to evac­uees and those who lost homes.

Ma­son Trinca / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Ju­lia Harkins holds son Luca as his dad, Lu­ciano Tris­tan, en­ters their tem­po­rary lodg­ing at the Clift.

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