MONTECITO, Calif. - After shutting down last March when the coronavirus pandemic began, the Four Seasons Biltmore resort in Montecito will remain closed through at least 2022.
It's unclear when the beachside retreat will reopen, even as other Santa Barbara-area hotels prepare for a travel industry rebound this summer.
About 450 Biltmore employees remain furloughed after last March's closure. More than 250 of them are taking legal action against the hotel through local attorney Bruce Anticouni. While a lawsuit has not been filed, Anticouni says that Four Seasons has agreed to mediation on April 30 to attempt to resolve the legal dispute.
The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act says that a furlough extending beyond six months should be considered an "employment loss," with some exceptions.
"Four Seasons is contractually obligated to compensate its former employees substantial Separation Pay when their employment has come to an end," Anticouni said in a memo released on Monday. "Assuming the hotel opens on January 1, 2023, the employees would be out-of-work for at least 33 months. Because the layoff has now extended for more than 13 months, our clients are entitled to Separation Pay."
The employees' movement to take legal action against the hotel dates back to at least November. Last August, 250 Biltmore employees marched in Montecito to protest their employment uncertainty.
Beanie Babies creator Ty Warner owns the Biltmore property, but it's unclear what his plans are for its future. He reopened his Montecito Club property this month after $119.5 million in renovations.
Warner and the Biltmore have not yet responded to requests for comment.