A five-star hotel in Beirut that once hosted royalty and survived the civil war has been forced to close over Lebanon's economic crisis and coronavirus lockdown, its manager said Saturday.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst financial crunch since the 1975-1990 civil war, now compounded by a nationwide lockdown since March 15 to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The crisis has pushed the owners of Le Bristol to close down the landmark hotel after almost seven decades in business, its general manager Joseph Coubat said.
"It's because of the economic situation which has become unbearable," he said.
"Now with the coronavirus, and with the financial problems we are going through in the country, the level of occupancy has fallen very low," he told AFP, saying it was less than 10 percent.
He said the owners had decided to shut the hotel "while waiting for better days", but that for the moment the closure was definitive.
Designed by French interior designer Jean Royere, Le Bristol was first opened in 1951.
It boasts the oldest ballroom in Beirut and once housed Lebanon's first-ever skating rink before it was turned into a conference room.
Its guests have included the late shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari, American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and former French president Jacques Chirac.
Le Bristol never closed during the civil war, when it hosted foreign journalists, though it was shuttered for refurbishment between 2013 and 2015, when owners poured millions of dollars into its renovation.
Read the opening story: Le Bristol Reopening in 2015