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Hostel Takeover: El Paso, TX Recap

Anthony goes to El Paso, Texas, and takes in the view of two states and three countries. The Gardner Hotel was built in 1922 and is the oldest continuous operating hotel in El Paso. The owner, Joe Nebhan, has converted it into a hostel where guests share rooms. Anthony admits that he's never tried to turn around a hostel before.

When he arrives outside the Gardner, Anthony, notes that the hotel exterior looks old. There's a hole in the screen and Anthony figures that it represents bigger problems inside. Entering the lobby, Anthony sees the front desk agent folding towels. He tells the agent that he shouldn't see linen there, and doesn't want his linen on the counter. The agent says that the Gardner's biggest problem is the management. Anthony has read online that the assistant manager, Antonio, isn't very nice, and the agent admits that Antonio isn't too happy that Anthony is coming in. Behind the desk are two wooden sticks and a metal pipe used as "security," and Anthony figures that there are safety and security issues. The agent says that a room is $25 a night and Anthony points out that a nice hostel can get double that. She gives Anthony sheets and pillowcases, and Anthony realizes that he has to make his own bed. There are no towels in the room, but they'll give them to guests who ask at a rate of $0.75 a towel.

Anthony goes up to his room and sees a rusty vent in his eyeline. He continues on and sees a bare-minimum room. The door doesn't have a lock, and Anthony finds a woman showering. Anthony quickly apologizes to the woman, Rachel, and walks out. He discovers that his crew set it up so that Anthony would experience first-hand how dangerous the hostel is for the guests. Once Rachel dresses, Anthony asks her if it's a typical hostel situation. She says that she's stayed in 20-30 hostels and no one has walked in on her. Rachel expects standard hostel facilities, and the Gardner doesn't have them. There's no secure place to store her things except for a shared storage unit in the basement, two floors down.

Down in the basement, Anthony checks the storage units and finds signs on the lockers saying that only the staff can open them. The staff has garbage in the lockers that guests have to share with them, and there are only nine lockers. He goes to the kitchen/common area and finds a filthy refrigerator. Antonio comes in wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and he says that he's off. He lives in the building, and Anthony has Antonio inspect the kitchen with him. There's a thick layer of grease on the ceiling fan, but it doesn't bother Antonio because it's not on him but on the blades. Anthony tells him that it's his responsibility as assistant manager, but Antonio insists that there's a division of responsibilities. The hotelier asks if the dirt bothers him, and Antonio says that it doesn't. Disgusted, Anthony says that he can't talk to him anymore and says that Antonio has no business being an assistant manager.

Anthony goes back to the fan and easily breaks off a blade. He throws it across the room and wonders what he's supposed to do. Anthony then meets with Joe and expresses his concerns. Joe admits that he doesn't see the problems because he's been there too long, and says that the hotel's business dropped after 9/11. Anthony points out that was 14 years ago, and 2015 was the best year in the hotel industry. Hostel business is at an all-time high in the U.S. Joe explains that his grandfather started the hotel and he left it to him, and it's Joe's only connection to him. His daughter Stephanie wants to continue the family tradition, and Joe figures that Stephanie would get new staff if she took over. The owner says that Antonio is the main problem.

Anthony shows him a moldy cutting board and the filth on the fan blade, and demonstrates that it's splitting in half. He tells Joe what Antonio said, and Joe says that he has some faults. Anthony tells Joe that Antonio can't work there because there's no lock on the doors. Joe explains that they had to take the locks off because the rooms are shared, and Anthony points out that Joe would be responsible if Rachel was raped or murdered. He tells Joe to think about it because he can't deal with it anymore, and walks out.

Later, Anthony has an expert come in for a second opinion. The man says that a hostel is a place where travelers can go and be sociable, learn about the local culture, and pay a low rate. He considers the Gardner the worst hostel that he's ever seen. Anthony asks about "poshtel," and the expert explains that a poshtel is an upscale hostel, and most of them are going that direction.

Anthony and the expert go around and find a window hole patched up with a piece of paper. The expert says that he's never seen a hostel without bathroom door locks. They check a drawer and find dried food inside, and Anthony slams the drawer on the floor until it breaks. He brings in designer Britany Simon, who hasn't dealt with hostels before, and tells her about the lack of door locks. Britany concedes that it's a problem and he tells her about the kitchen. Anthony wants her to do a room and a kitchen on her own.

Next, Anthony meets with Antonio again. Antonio admits that he was surprised at what Anthony said in their first meeting, and insists that the hostel isn't unsafe. Anthony asks why he hasn't corrected the problems, and Antonio says that almost no one complains. He admits that he gets frustrated with guests, and confirms that he gets a salary. Anthony tells him what the expert reported, and confirms that Antonio has no experience in hostels. He says that Antonio is delusional but polite, and figures that they're never going to see eye-to-eye. Antonio says that there's nothing he needs to run the hotel successfully and leaves.

Back with Joe, Anthony asks the owner if he's proud of what the hostel is like. Joe tells him to come back in a year and see the changes, and explains that he's thought a lot about what Anthony said earlier. Anthony tells him that he has to fire Antonio and confirms that Antonio is working there rent-free on minimal wage. Joe admits that he's thrifty, and Anthony warns him that Antonio knows nothing about managing a hostel. He insists that Joe is destroying the hostel and gets the impression that Joe doesn't care. Anthony steps outside to let Joe think about it, and figures that it's time for Joe to pass the Gardner onto Stephanie.

Anthony meets with Stephanie to see if she has what it takes to become the new owner. She confirms that she talked with Joe and he said his experience with Anthony is grueling. Stephanie understands that the Gardner is falling apart. She wants to take it over or her father will die with it, and Anthony takes her in to evaluate the problems. Stephanie points out the hole in the screen and the vent, noticing the same problems that Anthony noticed. He shows her the lack of bathroom door locks and says that it's unacceptable, and Stephanie agrees. Anthony explains that he needs an owner who cares about the guests, and asks Stephanie if she's willing to talk to Joe about taking over. She's not sure if Joe is willing to let go, warning that it's been her father's life for years. Stephanie agrees that they have to replace Antonio and says that she's prepared to do it. She suggests that her brother Nayef take over because he's worked there before.

Nayef comes in and says that Stephanie can manage the place. Anthony wants to device a plan together and present it to Joe together. They're ready to do it but are not sure if Joe is, and Anthony tells them to get ready to confront Joe.

Britany and her crew from Lopez Finished Woodwork work around the clock to finish the renovations in time. On the final day, Stephanie and Nayef finish the agreement. They sit down with Joe and Anthony, and Stephanie says that it's time for her to take over. She addresses the security issues and explains that they're going to renovate every room. Stephanie gives Joe a price range of $500,000 to $850,000, and Joe says that he has $80,000 ready for her. She then says that Antonio has to go immediately, but Joe refuses to toss him away. Nayef sides with Stephanie, and Joe says that he's going to hold it off until they take it off and then do it himself. Stephanie confirms that Nayef will take over as assistant manager immediately, and Joe agrees to let Antonio go.

Joe shows his children a wedding band that he found on the street the day he took over the Gardner. It represents the wedding he has to the hotel, and gives it to Stephanie. She promises to take care of it and thanks her father for being so receptive. Later off-camera, Joe lets Antonio go.

Once everything is set, Anthony shows the family what he's providing. First is a property management system so people can make reservations online and have a presence on third-party booking sites. Inside, Anthony shows the family the remodeled kitchen. Anthony introduces Britany and her crew from Lopez Finished Woodwork, and they admit that the work was overwhelming. Thanks to Britany, they made it happen. Once the crew leaves, Britany explains that she kept the table based but put on new countertops. She heads back to the remodel room, and Anthony gives Stephanie two certificates for online management classes. She's also getting 30 days of support from Hosteldoctor for free, and Joe admits that he wishes he had the education when he took over.

The group goes to the remodel room and discover that Britany has hung the bunks from the ceiling. The bathroom door locks, and American Hotel Register has donated linens and beddings for half the rooms. There are lockboxes in the closet and additional deadbolts on the doors. Since Britany didn't have enough time to do the single rooms, she's created computer mockups. The Nebhans thank Anthony and Britany for their work.

Written by Gadfly on Apr 20, 2016

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