Developer says Eola will be out of hotel business

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NATCHEZ — The historic Natchez Eola Hotel has been sold and will no longer operate as a hotel, though long-term plans include the continued operation of its restaurant and bar.

Virginia-based attorney Robert Lubin — who bought the 131-room hotel in the 1990s before ultimately selling it to Bob Dean — confirmed Monday he purchased the property.

Lubin declined to discuss exactly what he will do with the Eola, but said the building will no longer operate as a hotel. It will be developed in a way, he said, that will “change the entire experience with the building.”

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“My experience with the hotel was I loved the hotel, and it is a beautiful building and a time piece and a classic,” Lubin said. “But the rooms were very small, the bathrooms were very hard to work with, and no matter how many times you start over, it just doesn’t work very well for what people expect when they walk into a hotel and see how magnificent it is. They’re not as excited walking out as they were walking in.”

The restaurant and bar on the first floor will re-open in the future, he said.

“We definitely want to keep the bar and restaurant, because that is timeless,” Lubin said. “We don’t want to do anything that is going to be a negative impact on the area, and it is a great spot and we don’t want to change that.”

Lubin said the Eola purchase is part of a larger development plan he has for the area over the next 15 to 18 months.

“I have looked at apartments, looked at senior living and want to increase hotel rooms in Natchez,” he said.

Lubin said work to improve the building’s interior functions while preserving its historic nature will begin early next year.

“If you look at the building, you won’t notice the difference other than the interior is greatly improved,” he said. “We are making sure this building is there for the next 200 years, and that it remains the classic building of the South.”

As of Monday evening, the doors at the Eola were locked.

Lubin was the executive director of the holding company that applied to the Mississippi Gaming Commission to get permission for Magnolia Bluffs Casino to open, but Magnolia Bluffs President Kevin Preston said last week the sale was not connected with the casino.

Lubin said his developments will ultimately be job drivers, saying his financial backing requires the creation of jobs.

“I love Natchez, and I try to get very involved in the communities (where I develop),” he said. “I try not to do a one off. I try to make a difference in a positive way where everybody is satisfied with the results.”

Calls to former owner Dean’s office were not returned Monday.

Former Eola Manager Ron Brumfield said the hotel’s restaurant and bar operations were moved to The Guest House at 201 N. Pearl St., which Dean still owns along with the Prentiss Club.

The Guest House will be serving a breakfast and lunch buffet open to the public, and the bar will be open in the evenings, Brumfield said.

Events at the Prentiss Club will also continue, he said.

“We have been functionally using (The Guest House),” Brumfield said. “We had been using it for private functions, so it was a matter of opening it to the public.”

The Guest House will also offer 16 rooms for lodging, Brumfield said.