Del Mar’s L’Auberge to open on time, incrementally

Despite setbacks that will prevent the completion for several months of two main components of its major renovation, the L’Auberge Del Mar is nonetheless set for a reopening the first week in June.

“We will open on time and on budget,” said the hotel’s general manager Mike Slosser.

Working under an ambitious timeline for completion of the $25 million renovation, officials with the L’Auberge Del Mar have decided to open the hotel in phases, initially going without a restaurant and day spa.

“There’s been a fair amount of juggling going on to accommodate phases of construction,” said the hotel’s construction manager Graham Anderson at a recent Del Mar City Council meeting. Anderson said he realized the hotel was especially challenged in the restaurant schedule with several unforeseen permits required.

“We really got behind the eight-ball,” he said, “we just couldn’t get it done.”

At the meeting Anderson requested - and received - a council approval for the placement of a temporary mobile kitchen trailer to be located to the northeast of what will become the hotel’s new upscale day spa in an area slated for the main restaurant’s outdoor dining area.

The hotel is fully booked with guests for its June 6 soft opening (a ribbon-cutting will be held later), including bookings for seven banquet-style events, including weddings. With the hotel’s new $4.2 million restaurant now set for a Sept. 20 opening, the mobile kitchen has become a necessity according to Anderson to provide room service and food for the group events.

“We will have to deal to some extent with guests having to eat at local restaurants,” he said, “but we can’t deal with banquets. He added as soon as the hotel’s banquet kitchen was completed in a four month time period, the trailer would be removed.

The kitchen trailer, built to order for the hotel, will be connected to on-site utility lines for power and drainage and will contain ventilation and odor-collecting equipment.

The trailer was necessitated when internal demolition work uncovered several mold contaminated areas and portions of the restaurant, restaurant kitchen and banquet kitchen had to be redesigned.

Slosser is downplaying the delay, saying the hotel always had plans to open in phases. He says high-quality food service will be made available throughout the hotel including a new ocean view Lobby Terrace, which will temporarily become a restaurant in every way but name.

The chair of the Del Mar Village Association’s Economic Restructuring Committee, Slosser also says he is more than happy to have guests contribute to the local economy by eating at other local restaurants until the hotel opens their much-touted and as yet to be named restaurant.

He said he is confident when all construction is finally complete, the hotel will become a centerpiece for a city much in need of an economic shot in the arm.

“Maybe people in town will say, ‘if the L’Auberge can get this done, why can’t we all?’” said Slosser.

With a marketing budget near $1 million and with pricier rooms remodeled to the tune of $200,00 per key, Slosser says the hotel will attract a new clientele with dollars to spend.

Besides the banquet kitchen, also needing temporary trailers will be the hotel’s administrative offices, which have been located behind the retail building that will eventually become the day spa. Permanent offices are to be completed in late March of next year - the last portion of the hotel to be finished.

The $3.5 million day spa is now slated for a Dec. 20 opening. When completed, it will feature 10 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, steam rooms, locker rooms, wine bar and enclosed private patios.

The hotel as a whole will be redesigned to resemble a coastal estate with complete remodeling of the hotel’s 120 guest rooms and suites, pool and lobby and entrance area. The existing retail building will not be demolished due to specific plan requirements that no square footage can be added or taken away.