YORK BEACH, Maine — Ownership of the historic Union Bluff Hotel on Short Sands Beach will change hands after more than three decades of being owned and operated by the same family.
York residents Brett and Mary Jane Merritt sold the hotel at 8 Beach Street to Giri Hotel Management for $23 million on Dec. 15, according Ryan Carey of Maine Realty Advisors, a representative for the sellers.
Carey said that the sellers were looking for a transition and decided to retire from the hospitality industry. With a low inventory of properties and a demand uptick for southern Maine, it was the perfect time to do so, he added.
“It’s a very grueling industry. It’s really tough to hire right now … a full service hotel is not just lodging – It’s food and beverage, it’s weddings and events. They staff well over 100 people there year-round … it’s quite an undertaking to manage that,” Carey said.
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The work to maintain the business was an every day kind of job, former owner Brett Merritt said.
“It took a lot of our time. We put a lot of money into it every year … we never closed,” Merritt said Wednesday, Dec. 22.
The COVID pandemic has made a lot of hospitality investors wary, Carey said. However, travel for leisure investments have been highly sought after. 2021 was a record year for hotels across Maine, even compared to pre-pandemic numbers in 2019, another record year, Carey said.
“There are people from all around the country that are interested in buying hotels in Maine, specifically coastal Maine,” Carey said. “The sale coincided with people paying record numbers for hotels, so the time was right for them … ten or 15 years ago, it would’ve been unthinkable for a hotel this size here to sell for this much.”
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The bright, all white five-story hotel has three buildings with 41 rooms and suites, according to Carey. There is an undeveloped small parcel of land near the main building that will likely be used for additional rooms, he added.
The hotel offers ocean and beachfront views in many of the rooms, dining, a ballroom and conference center that can host up to 200 guests.
Giri Hotel Management, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, owns properties across Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, according to a statement from Ryan Amin, a principal at Giri Hotel Management.
“We are excited for GIRI to expand its footprint in Maine …we look forward to working with the amazing team members who have made the Union Bluff successful for so many years, while serving the repeat clientele in York,” Amin said.
The Union Bluff is Giri Hotel Management’s 45th property in New England. Other Maine-based properties are in Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Bar Harbor, Portland, Freeport, Ellsworth, Saco, Brunswick, Waterville, Bangor, Augusta and Wells, according to the company’s website.
Historic hotel dates back to 1868
Originally called the Union Bluff House, The Union Bluff Hotel & Meeting House was built in 1868 by Moses French shortly after the Civil War and during a boom in tourism in the area, according to the hotel’s website.
“The rugged beauty of York Beach’s Union Bluffs and the sea air of the Atlantic drew people by stagecoach, horse drawn carriage and eventually by steam train and electric trolley. During the summer, guests would arrive with their trunks packed for a month long stay,” the website states.
The hotel’s structure has essentially remained the same since its inception, according to the website. The hotel’s name and ownership have changed a number of times over the years.
Before a fire destroyed the original building in 1987, it was one of the last old wooden structures in York Beach, the website states. It was rebuilt two years later by Mary Jane Meritt’s father, who owned the business for one year before she took it over, Brett Merritt said.
“We love the hospitality industry … we’ve had some great people for the 32 years that we’ve run it … some of those people have been there as long as we have and they’re getting ready to retire … it was time to do the same,” Merritt said.
Carey said that although the name of who’s signing employees’ paychecks will change, he expects Giri Hotel Management will maintain the character and uniqueness of the hotel.
“The person signing your paycheck certainly changes. But as far as the character of the hotel …from everything I know about them, they’re leaning into the history, that’s something that attracted them to York. It’s not just a branded hotel, it is a boutique,” Carey said.
Brett Merritt said he and his wife are staying local and are looking forward to finally being able to turn off their phones after 32 years of working.
“It’s a beautiful community, a wonderful town, we love it,” Merritt said. “I know they (Giri Hotel Management) will run the hotel very similarly … I think they’ll do a great job.”
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Historic Union Bluff Hotel in York, Maine sells for $23 million