Auckland's The Westin shuts up shop

REBECCA STEVENSON
Last updated 13:19 29/07/2011

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The rooms are closed, the restaurant is closed, the bar is closed and the receiver of the Auckland hotel formerly known as The Westin Lighter Quay is in Australia at a conference.

After months of wrangling the five-star Viaduct hotel is no more.

The waterfront hotel has been caught in a legal stoush between investors in the hotel and the receivers of developer Nigel McKenna's failed Lighter Quay Hotel Management.

Investors, many based in Malaysia and Singapore, alleged they hadn't received a fair return on their investment and took control of 117-rooms in the 173-room hotel through a successful High Court action.

This ultimately led to a "hotel within a hotel" - the Hotel Viaduct Harbour - being opened earlier this month by those investors in direct competition with The Westin. The international hotel brand this week pulled out running the remaining rooms.

Investor spokesperson Graham Wilkinson confirmed on Friday the 56-rooms, and the bar and restaurant which had been operated by The Westin until today, had closed.

Wilkinson said furniture had been removed and The Westin's sign was now gone but was keen to point out the Hotel Viaduct Harbour is still open for business - complete with new signage.

When The Westin opened in 2007 it was hailed by McKenna as New Zealand's first purpose built five star hotel.

It was also the first time The Westin brand had been seen here, and boasted 173-rooms with nine suites, an "executive club lounge", all day restaurant, bar and cafe, health club and spa - all on Auckland's "prestigious waterfront".

Football superstar David Beckham and former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson stayed at The Westin, which was also the hotel of choice for the fashionable set associated with New Zealand fashion week.

But the glamour days ended when the hotel's management company, owned by McKenna, was placed in receivership by major creditor the Bank of Scotland in July last year, owed $16.5 million.

After angry hotel investors failed to reach agreement with the hotel's original receiver Michael Stiassny over rental payments for the units the bizarre two-hotels on one-site evolved and The Westin's days were numbered.

While The Westin's staff rang around punters with future bookings in the hotel earlier this week offering to book them into accommodation elsewhere, the fate of the former Westin itself was unclear.

And so it remains, as the new receiver of the Lighter Quay Hotel Management, Grant Thornton's Tim Downes and David Ruscoe, are away in Australia "at conference" until next week.

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While Wilkinson agreed it wasn't very convenient the receiver was away, Hotel Viaduct Harbour was charging ahead with its plans to increase the services it offers to customers including room service.

He said he was in talks with owners of some of the 56-rooms now closed to operate them under the Hotel Viaduct Harbour brand.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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