I just had a phone call from Matt Hart, who is President and COO of Hilton Hotels Corporation. It seems Mr. Hart got my letter, and he wanted to respond in person.
Apparently the MSM has picked up on Fran O'Brien's story, and HHC is feeling the heat.
Here's what I took away from the conversation: The Capital Hilton is managed by a contractor. The nice folks at HHC are not happy with how that management has handled inquiries into the Fran O'Brien's matter. Hilton corporate brass has stepped in.
Mr. Hart stressed to me that this is the worst kind of PR the Hilton could ask for, and they are doing everything in their power to address all of the issues raised.
One -- Hilton intends to continue the Friday night dinner tradition. Perhaps some of the bigger Milbloggers should contact Mr. Hart directly about coordinating with Hilton on this?
Two -- Mr. Hart told me that "The owners of Fran O'Brien's are not working out. The business has not been a good fit with Hilton and they are losing money. They have not paid several months' rent." He also suggested that they might using Milblogger sympathies to buy themselves more time.
Holy Smokes! I just got a fax from Marc Grossman, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs. I think I'll just quote it in its entirety:
Thank you for writing. Please allow me to address the issues and allegation contained both in your letter and your blog. Unfortunately, there's been much information; perhaps I can clarify the situation.Very helpful, indeed Mr. Grossman. Thank both you and Mr. Hart for your phenomenally rapid responses.
First, the reason the Fran O'Brien's lease is not being renewed is that the restaurant was not paying its rent, along with a myriad of other lease violations including maintenance and safety violations. This is not a recent development; it has been going on for quite some time, and we have attempted to rectify the situation, but to no avail. We have no choice but to discontinue the relationship with Fran O'Brien's.
Second, because we do in fact honor both our veterans and the tradition of these eventsx, we have offered to the group to continue hosting them... just at a different location within the hotel. We hope they accept the offer.
Your comment that "you just don't want the restaurant there" is only true insofar as they have refused to pay their rent. From a business standpoint, what other reasonable conclusion could be reached? But importantly, from a "social" standpoint, we are also being reasonable in offerin to continue having the dinners at our hotel.
One more thing that might be of interest. In your blog you intimate that Fran O'Brien's has been paying for these dinners. That's not true. Outside organizations pay for the events. Hilton has offered to not only continue being the location for the dinners, but pay for them as well.
I hope this is helpful.
I will encourage others with questions to both share the information you've shared with me, and to contact Hilton directly if more questions arise.
I'd like to note that I started this post immediately after hanging up with Mr. Hart and the fax from Mr. Grossman came in right in the middle of drafting the post.
If they'll answer questions from a secretary from Chicago, they'll answer questions from you. I'm impressed.