As the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world and touched all businesses in some form, the hotel industry has been no exception.
The London Hotel in West Hollywood is known for its lavish suites and premier amenities, often attracting celebrity guests and was even the center focus of “The London,” a hit single by rappers Young Thug, J.Cole and Travis Scott, whose melodic croonings shook speakers in the summer of 2019.
Because of the pandemic, though, The London has had to scale back its occupancy, some of its special offerings and unfortunately a lot of its staff. In the last 11 months, they’ve had no more than 50% occupancy, which at one point fell to 15% in the harshest of California’s stay-at-home orders.
The hotel has tried to fight through those challenges with the unrelenting hustle, kindness and world class service provided by its general manager Jeff Kulek.
Being general manager at The London since it hit the Hollywood scene in 2013, good service has always been a given for Kulek, but he decided to go above and beyond his duties to make sure guests don’t miss a beat, despite the madness that plagued the world.
“This whole thing with COVID and everything that’s happened this year has hurt my heart so badly,” Kulek said.
Kulek has been in the hospitality business for more than 30 years. He came to L.A. from Brooklyn, New York with the same Hollywood dreams that are common in the heart of the city. When he decided his acting was not in his future, Kulek turned to serving others with the same energy he would if he was auditioning for a film role.
Moving his desk to the hotel lobby, Kulek greets every single guest from a safe distance, converses with them and provides the comforting warmth of normalcy in a world of where gatherings are prohibited, cities are locked down and businesses cannot run as normal.
“It’s changed the nature of my job,” Kulek said of making the decision to work in the midst of all his guests and tend to their every need almost 24/7. “I moved my desk out into the lobby so I could be of service to guests. If, for instance, the front desk was too busy, I could help out the guest myself. I also decided that I wanted to meet every single guest that departed and checked in. I wanted to know who was staying here and help them in their journey.”
The London sits in fairly close proximity to Cedars Sinai Medical Center and with the hotel limited to guests who are traveling for work or receiving medical procedures in Los Angeles, there are guests who use the London as their rest stop while taking care of themselves, and sometimes even taking care of others.
“I’ve met people who have had procedures done at Cedars, made sure their stay was driven toward assisting their recovery and helping their loved ones cope with the challenge of taking care of someone who had been through an important surgery,” Kulek said. “I’ve met healthcare workers who are taking care of people with COVID and those people to me… they’re worth their weight in gold. I’ve spoiled them, given them free meals and asked them to come back on their free time and have a complimentary stay.”
That extra attention he has placed on patrons came to a climax during the holidays when he met a woman who had just married a week before, but still had to work out in Los Angeles without even a chance to celebrate her honeymoon because of worldwide restrictions leaving little room for celebrations and hitting millions in their wallets.
“I said, ‘You got married last week and you’re working? Did you not go on a honeymoon?’ She said ‘We really couldn’t afford a honeymoon,'” Kulek said as he retold the story. “I said, ‘Guess what. If you want, you can have my entire penthouse for an entire week. It’s $15,000 a night, that’s worth $175,000 and you and your husband can pick a date and it’s yours for free.”
With tears streaming down her face, the young woman thanked Kulek for his generosity and the couple will be taking advantage of his generous offer later in February.
Kulek is a strong believer in reaping what you sow and feels that all his random acts of kindness will go a long way for himself, the people around him and ultimately the way he has chosen to approach the pandemic.
“By doing random acts of kindness, they’re going to tell 100 people, who are going to tell 100 people and then my hotel is going to build up its occupancy and I’ll be able to hire my employees back,” Kulek said. “This is a very special hotel, moreso than any other hotel I’ve worked at and I’ve worked at many.”