By Logan Dubel
It’s the beginning of a new era at one of Ocean City’s oldest and most-recognized hotels. Now called the Ocean City Fontainebleau Resort, the former Clarion announced its sale in February, marking a new dawn on 101st Street.
After more than 35 years, owner Dr. Leonard Berger, who is still going strong at age 87, decided to entrust the property to the next generation. However, Berger, who understands the Fontainebleau better than anyone, will continue to provide his expertise as a consultant for the next three years.
The hotel will now be managed by HEI Hotels and Resorts, a strong independent firm with a nationwide portfolio.
Sweeping changes will get underway shortly, but for longtime patrons, management assures that they will still experience everything they have come to value about the hotel.
While many changes are indeed expected, they will likely not take effect until 2023. Many rebranding efforts have begun, as all signage and marketing materials must reflect the resort’s new name. Ever since its opening in 1974, whether it was called the Sheraton or Clarion, the “Fontainebleau” piece of its name has always stuck around. Still, another name change will come in 2023 once the new management has had time to take over and settle in.
However, larger-scale changes such as renovations will not reach completion before the summer season arrives in just a few months. Major renovations will include the remodeling of all rooms as well as the large public spaces.
Even with new ownership, every member of the staff plans to stick around. After all, keeping a small, local crew that answers to the demands and needs of Ocean City, not a large-scale corporation, is what has kept the hotel successful after nearly 50 years in operation.
Mark Elman, who has led the hotel as General Manager since 2004 and will continue in that post, is optimistic about what is to come.
“Dr. Berger felt that the time was right to pass on the torch and let someone else move the property forward. There are a lot of great things coming in the winter of 2023. By keeping our Fontainebleau hotel name, we can still hold on to our strong following before we regroup and rebrand next year,” said Elman. “We have a lot of longevity at the hotel. Certainly, there is a learning curve, but the staff is excited to work with this great management company. It’s a great opportunity to be part of their portfolio.”
The Fontainebleau is one of just a handful of Ocean City hotels that independently owns its lot on the beach, allowing them to serve food and beverages on the sand. When the staff reviewed and transferred the liquor license a few weeks ago, this provision remained.
Additionally, the hotel’s three eateries, Horizons Oceanfront Restaurant, Lenny’s Beach Bar and Grill, and Breakers Pub and Raw Bar, will remain open, likely with a few minor name changes. Additionally, the hotel’s well-known wine collection will continue to be an integral part of their dining experiences. The Fontainebleau remains pet friendly.
“Our culture and the fact that we have a lot of longevity has served us well and will continue to make us unique. We have so many repeat guests that appreciate our location and amenities. I believe that they will continue to patronize our property,” Elman added.
“We are looking forward to another banner year. Last summer was huge for all the hotels in Ocean City and we hope to build on that momentum.”
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the Ocean City Fontainebleau Resort will continue to serve tourists and evolve. Curious about the history of the Fontainebleau resort? Check out OceanCity.com’s recent piece, The Clarion Resort Then and Now.