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Hotel Buckminster’s closure starkest sign of coronavirus’ effect on Boston-area hotels

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The inn’s shuttering underscores just how much the pandemic has dimmed the once burning-bright prospects of the region’s hospitality industry

A hotel with an oval shape jutting into a busy streetscape. Boston Globe via Getty Images

In perhaps the most striking sign of just how much the novel coronavirus pandemic has walloped the Boston region’s hospitality market, the Hotel Buckminster at 645 Beacon Street in Kenmore announced it would not reopen after closing due to the pathogen.

The inn dating from 1897 made the announcement on Facebook. Like so many other hotels in the region, the Buckminster had shuttered due to loss of business because of the virus. What’s more, Gov. Charlie Baker on March 31 ordered that all hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, etc., in Massachusetts stop checking in guests for leisure travel and instead make their rooms available if they could for fighting the pandemic.

The Buckminster’s fate was sealed a week before that, according to its Facebook message. It suspended operations March 20, and dropped the closure news three days later. “We will be cancelling all existing reservations moving forward. Please do not be concerned about calling as we will be taking care of canceling your reservations automatically.”

The Boston-area hospitality market entered March on perhaps an unprecedented high as far as operators and owners were concerned.

On the development side, at least 2,405 new rooms were on pace to come online in 2020, 2021, and early 2022. The 6.6 percent annual increase in room supply expected in 2021 alone, in fact, was due to be the largest such increase since 1999. That increase is unlikely now due to coronavirus-related construction delays and what’s sure to become a messy financing picture for hotel developers. Several months of lackluster demand are also likely to skew things as the Boston economy and its tourism sector ease slowly back to normal.

On the operational side, the future in early March burned even brighter. The hotel market in Boston proper and neighboring Cambridge was one of the strongest in the United States, with an occupancy rate of 82.5 percent and an average daily room rate of $261.31 at the end of 2019, according to hotel consultancy Pinnacle Advisory Group.

And as far as revenue per room—the big measure for operators—that was $215.61 at the end of last year, similar to what it was at the close of 2018. Projections had all measures holding steady or shooting higher through 2020.

Now, entire hotels gape empty—at least of conventional paying guests—and the Buckminster ownership has given up completely. What will become of the hotel’s choice site in a Fenway-Kenmore area rife with development in recent years is unclear.

There is a bit of history there. Comedian Andy Kaufman lived at the Buckminster briefly, and the gamblers and the players who fixed the 1919 World Series hatched their plans there. The Buckminster also hosted the predecessor to today’s WHDH beginning in the 1940s, per Universal Hub, which broke the news of the closure.

It’s unlikely, though, that any sense of history will save the site from redevelopment—whenever development returns. Stay tuned.