Business

Iconic downtown Lexington hotel sold; restaurant to stay open

Gratz Park Inn has been sold and will become a Hilton luxury boutique hotel, according to Mark Wombles, who owns Distilled Restaurant & Bourbon Bar at the Gratz Park Inn. Distilled will remain open during renovations.
Gratz Park Inn has been sold and will become a Hilton luxury boutique hotel, according to Mark Wombles, who owns Distilled Restaurant & Bourbon Bar at the Gratz Park Inn. Distilled will remain open during renovations.

The Gratz Park Inn, the small private hotel in downtown Lexington that has hosted brides, horse buyers, politicians and celebrities, has been sold.

It will become a luxury Hilton boutique property, under a new name, according to Sunil Patel of RainMaker Hospitality, one of the new owners.

He said they don’t yet know what it will be called.

“We’re still working on that part, the naming of the hotel and what the brand will look like after everything is said and done,” he said. “But I promise you it’s going to be a very exciting hotel.”

RainMaker, which manages about 10 hotels in and around Lexington, partnered with Rolling Hills Hospitality of Florence to buy the The Gratz Park Inn for an undisclosed price.

Patel said that the renovations, which will take at least four months, are likely to cost $2 million to $2.5 million. When it reopens, the hotel will be under the Hilton Tapestry Collection brand, one-of-a-kind hotels with personality. Tapestry hotels include the Troubadour in New Orleans, Tailwater Lodge in Altmar, N.Y., and Virginia Crossings in Glen Allen, Va.

The finished 41-room hotel at 120 West Second Street will have a fitness center and a business center, he said. The restaurant, Distilled at Gratz Park, will stay open during the renovations and remain.

The Gratz Park Inn posted a cryptic farewell message on its Facebook page on Nov. 22, saying, “Farewells are not easy but a new beginning is in store for the Gratz Park Inn. Renovations will begin soon.”

A message at the hotel’s main number said Wednesday that it closed as of Tuesday for renovations and is expected to reopen in late spring.

Hilton already operates The Campbell House, which is a part of its Curio Collection, as well as the Hilton downtown and the Hilton Suites at Lexington Green.

This is the first Hilton property for RainMaker, which also is building a Home2Suites property, another Hilton brand, in Frankfort, and a Holiday Inn Express in Winchester. They also just opened a Towneplace Suites by Marriott in Richmond, Patel sad.

The Gratz Park Inn previously was owned by Bill Lear, Jim Phelps and Wayne Wellman and Craig Turner of CRM, which has an agreement in principle to buy the Herald-Leader building for redevelopment.

All of the hotel’s furniture is being donated to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.

“They came and looked at everything to plan the logistics today and may start moving the furniture out tomorrow,” Patel said.

Mark Wombles’ restaurant, Distilled at Gratz Park, opened in late 2014. Before that, it had been Jonathan at Gratz Park under chef Jonathan Lundy.

Wombles said Wednesday that the new hotel should be open in time for Keeneland’s spring meet and that restaurant patrons should be able to enter through the hotel lobby.

“(The renovations are) not going to affect our business in any way,” he said. “We are thrilled to death. This is a huge deal for us.”

The luxury hotel will fill a void in the Lexington market for an ultra-high-end hotel, he said.

“The hotel needed updating and renovating,” Womble said. “It’s going to be absolutely beautiful inside. And it’s going to be underneath the hat of Hilton. It’s going to be such a great addition to that area of town.”

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