UNIVERSAL CITY : Businesses Rebound but Hotel Still Closed


On the make-believe Main Street of CityWalk, the shattered china and liquor bottles have been cleared from restaurants and the glasswork swept off art gallery floors. King Kong is back in business at Universal Studios Hollywood and the sitcom cameras are rolling nearby.

For most of the entertainment businesses on the hill known as Universal City, the Northridge earthquake was a temporary setback.

“Universal City . . . held up remarkably well compared to Northridge,” said Jim Mahfet, executive director of the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.


The Universal Sheraton Hotel, however, sustained significant damage. The 444-room hotel, which closed on the day of the earthquake, will not reopen until May 1.

“It’s all cosmetic, nothing structural, thank goodness,” said Dave Cocks, general manager, describing cracked plaster, broken mirrors and bathroom tiles. “Ninety percent of our rooms have something where our contractors are going to have to go in and repair something from earthquake damage.”

Concerned about the contaminated water source and needed repairs, the hotel staff went from room to room on Jan. 17 explaining to the remaining guests that they would be shuttled to Sheraton hotels downtown or near the airport.

“Most of them left on their own the morning of the earthquake,” Cocks said. No guests or employees were injured, he said.

Cocks said the company had no estimate of damages or how much money the hotel will lose during the closure. But he said that in 1993, with an occupancy rate of 77%, the hotel grossed more than $21 million.

Perhaps luckily for the Sheraton and for the local attractions, January is a slow time of year for tourists.


“This is the very, very slowest time of year, said Joan Bullard, vice president of public relations at Universal Studios Hollywood. “Definitely there has been a dip in attendance but that’s to be expected. We don’t expect it to last a long time at all.”

At CityWalk, a faux Los Angeles street built by MCA to complement its Universal Studios Tour, few signs of the earthquake remained, save the slightly thinned crowds and a few plaster cracks.

This week, tables at Wolfgang Puck’s brightly colored pizzeria were dotted with the power lunch crowd. Workers from other CityWalk restaurants strolled over to Gladstones Universal City for their meal breaks.

“We did wonderfully well--no structural damage whatsoever,” said Ron Herman, director of marketing for MCA Development Co., the company that runs CityWalk for MCA Inc.

Business is slowly picking up, said Herman and shop managers at CityWalk.

“The first weekend, I was surprised anybody came,” Herman said. “We did about 40% of a normal week, which was surprisingly well. This weekend we did about 75% of a normal January weekend. We’re real pleased.”