Hotel rivalry checks in to Joliet
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2013 9:36PM
John Seo (left) and John Rhee (right), owner and partner respectively for the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, are seen outside the facility Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2013 8:23AM
The current owner of the Holiday Inn Banquet and Conference Center in Joliet says he plans to do very well under a new name when the Holiday Inn brand is switched to a new place in town.
A new Holiday Inn conference center would open at Interstate 80 and Houbolt Road by spring 2016, according to plans made public this week.
John Seo, who owns the Holiday Inn at the I-80 and Larkin Avenue interchange, said he already has been talking with “upscale” hotel companies and will adopt a new brand.
The competitive spirit between the two future rivals already is evident.
“Our facility is much bigger than what they are planning,” Seo said of the future conference center. “We have 15,000 square feet of meeting space. We can accommodate bigger events.”
Just how big the future conference center will be has not yet been determined.
Sanjiv Mehrota, chief executive of Hospitality Guru Group, said the company plans a banquet hall that will be between 6,000 and 9,000 square feet at Houbolt Road. The company has not determined how much additional space will be added with breakout meeting rooms.
Mehrota also showed a competitive edge when discussing his plans with the Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals, which on Thursday granted height variances for the future hotel buildings and signs.
Mehrota said the new conference center will get Holiday Inn business not now coming to Joliet because the Larkin Avenue facility has “been lagging behind.”
The Larkin Avenue hotel opened in 1971 as a Holiday Inn. Seo added a large banquet room in 2005 to attract events and large parties, and also added a restaurant.
Hospitality Guru Group also plans a restaurant and a fitness center. Mehrota said that the company is considering building a large fitness center that would be open for public membership.
The plans approved by the zoning board call for a five-story Holiday Inn with 120 rooms and a four-story Candlewood Suites with 80 rooms. The two brands are affiliated, and the two Joliet hotels would be connected to the conference center.
The Holiday Inn on Larkin Avenue has 200 rooms, and Seo said that is the reason that he and Holiday Inn are parting ways.
“Holiday Inn does not want to have a bigger hotel,” Seo said. “Our hotel does not fit in with Holiday Inn’s new ideas. Their new direction is not fitting a big hotel like ours.”
Seo said he has been talking with Wyndham, Radisson and other hotel companies and expects to rebrand his hotel with an upscale name.
Mehrota said his company plans to begin building in the fall of this year or spring 2014. Hospitality Guru has five hotels in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. It has one conference center that is part of a Holiday Inn in Janesville, Wis.