- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - With days left before the official Memorial Day reopening of the Claridge Hotel, construction crews were still spackling a breakfast nook, testing elevators original to the 1920s-era building and shining the marble floors where the Claridge’s name is boldly displayed.

For decades, the Claridge was known as the “Skyscraper by the Sea,” attracting the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Al Capone and Princess Grace of Monaco. After a stint as a casino, the 500-room hotel returns to its roots this weekend as a noncasino hotel, The Press of Atlantic City (http://bit.ly/1pp1pLR) reports.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and with it comes a new trend for Atlantic City, epitomized by the reopening of the Claridge, just one of several noncasino hotels re-emerging onto Atlantic City’s landscape.

Joining the Claridge in opening this weekend is the former Ascot motel. The Iowa Avenue motel had been closed since Hurricane Sandy. It reopens this weekend with 70 rooms as TRYP by Wyndham after extensive renovations by Northfield developer Max Gurwicz Enterprises.

The two new upscale properties follow the quiet January reopening of the historic Madison House hotel on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. Shuttered for seven years, the property was refurbished and reopened by new owners Ratan Hotel Group under an affiliation with Baymont Inn & Suites. Its identifiable name was kept intact.

The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, which shut down in January and is now owned by Caesars Entertainment, also is rumored to be undergoing an ownership change and could reopen as a stand-alone hotel with 800 rooms.

Before the dawn of the casino era in 1978, Atlantic City was known as a seaside vacation resort boasting plenty of hotels. But as casinos sprang up, stand-alone hotels dwindled. Today, the city has about 20,000 hotel rooms, the majority of which can be found in casino properties.

Boutique hotels at noncasino properties have tried their luck in recent years with varying results. In some cases, hotels have been forced to nearly shut down for the winter due to a lack of demand. Many casino restaurants also adjust their schedules in the winter to reflect smaller crowds at the casinos.

Sherry Amos, head of marketing for the Claridge, said for TJM Properties, the Florida-based developer that purchased the historic hotel for $12.5 million from Caesars Entertainment, it’s about a strategy of promoting a resort experience in Atlantic City.

The new owners believe there is a market for travelers, particularly families, interested in a noncasino hotel that houses additional activities. The Claridge is unique because it offers amenities such as a 500-seat, cabaret-style theater that reopened last week under the name Celebrity Theater.

“Not everyone wants to stay in a casino,” Amos said. “Casinos have tried to keep people in, away from the windows. We’ll be offering to help families plan trips in the area - things like the Steel Pier, Gardner’s Basin and the things we’ll be offering here as well.”

At one time, the Claridge offered three floors of gaming space, but the gambling floor was cut back over time, and all gambling was removed by 2013.

Now, in house, the Claridge’s theater will feature nightly entertainment. That’s something that’s no longer easy to find in Atlantic City, where the majority of entertainers come for weekend shows interspersed with one-night weekday performances.

The Edwards Twins, Anthony and Eddie Edwards, are celebrity impersonators whose act was courted by former Resorts Casino Hotel owner Dennis Gomes shortly before his death in 2011. After finding the pair performing in Providence, Rhode Island, the twins played one weekend at Resorts but always hoped to bring nightly entertainment to Atlantic City, they said.

“Midweek business is huge. Nightly entertainment is huge, and we’ve always wanted to be here,” Anthony Edwards said.

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