New owner checking into Eola?

Published 12:06 am Thursday, December 4, 2014

NATCHEZ — The historic Eola Hotel in downtown Natchez may be under new ownership soon.

Sources with knowledge of the pending sale say current owner Bob Dean of Baton Rouge is negotiating to sell the 131-room hotel to Robert Lubin, with the sale being finalized as early as January.

Messages left with Dean’s and Lubin’s offices were not returned Wednesday.

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Lubin, a Virginia-based immigration attorney, is no stranger to Natchez or the Eola.

Lubin owned the hotel approximately two decades ago, purchasing it from current Mayor Butch Brown and other partners in 1994. Lubin later sold the hotel to Dean.

Most recently, Lubin was involved in bringing Magnolia Bluffs Casino to Natchez. He’s listed as executive director of Casino Holding Investment Partners LLC, the holding company for Natchez Casino OpC LLC, which went before the Mississippi Gaming Commission in 2012 to gain permission to open Magnolia Bluffs on Roth Hill.

Though Lubin is affiliated with the casino, Magnolia Bluffs Casino President Kevin Preston said Wednesday the casino was not involved with purchasing the Eola Hotel.

Sources with knowledge of the deal say Lubin has plans for extensive renovations to the Pearl Street hotel, including potentially turning more than half the hotel in luxury condominiums.

Sources said Lubin expects to take over the hotel at the beginning of the year with construction set to be complete by January 2016.

Eola Manager Ron Brumfield said Wednesday he had little knowledge of any sort of deal other than being “sure it’s going to happen at some point.”

“I’ve heard that no money has changed hands yet and that nothing is official until someone gets paid or the dotted line is signed,” Brumfield said. “I’ve had several calls here asking questions.”

Brumfield said he organized employee meetings in the last week asking them to not believe rumors that all hotel staff will be fired in the coming weeks.

“We told them those are just rumors flying around,” Brumfield said. “I don’t know any more.”

A hotel employee tasked with making reservations for events said Wednesday the hotel had no available dates for the year 2015.

The employee said spaces were available at the Eola Guest House, which Dean also owns along with the Prentiss Club building on Pearl Street.

Dean restored the Eola Hotel back to its original elegance after purchasing the historic hotel.

The Eola has operated as a hotel under the same name since opening in 1927.