Singapore’s famous 103-year-old Raffles Hotel, white-walled colonial birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail, accepted its last guest today before closing for a two-year face-lift.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Raffles Manager Roberto Pregarz, who with the hotel’s staff of 300 will be laid off until it reopens in 1991.
The hotel, which once hosted literary greats Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward, Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, is being renovated and a new wing added at a cost of about $75 million.
The hotel’s 127 rooms, each named for a famous author, will be closed after the remaining guests check out. “Closing is a job I hate to do. But we have to prepare for the next 100 years,” Pregarz said.
An earlier proposal to keep open the hotel’s Long Bar, where bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the Singapore Sling in 1915, was turned down by the owners. “I was told only three weeks ago. I was hoping to keep the door open,” Pregarz said.
In the 1970s the old hotel was in danger of being demolished after operating for years in the red. A flood of protests led to it’s being declared a historic landmark in 1984.
Now the hotel is a profitable concern, with a 90% occupancy rate and busloads of tourists stopping by to consume a daily total of about 1,000 Singapore Slings. The majority owner of the hotel is DBS Land, a Singapore realty company.