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The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe to Debut Anew

The historic property has a new owner, a new managing partner, and a new partnership with a top hospitality group

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Image Credits Courtesy Photography

After more than a year of mystery surrounding its future, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe begins a new chapter in its storied history after hotelier and interior designer Steve Hermann sold the property for $100 million in July to GEM Realty Capital Inc., a Chicago-based real estate investment firm. The mega sale was the largest hospitality deal in our region, and the third largest in California.

Hermann’s Montecito-based company, which owns Palm Springs’ five-star L’Horizon Resort & Spa, the adjacent Hermann Bungalows, and the Colony Palms Hotel, bought The Inn from JMI Realty in May 2022 for $42.7 million. How much he has since spent on renovations is unclear, although he took out a $50 million loan to buy and improve the property.

Sonnenblick-Eichner Company, a Beverly Hills-based real estate investment banking firm, brokered The Inn’s re-sale. Asked in a phone interview how the property could have doubled in price in just a year despite high interest rates and fears of recession, co-founder and principal Elliott Eichner replied: “It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity. The buyer thinks it will be one of the best resort destinations in California.” In an earlier announcement, Eichner noted that the firm was able to able to generate interest in the property given “the quality of the renovation” and that it was “offered unencumbered by franchise and management in a market with extremely high barriers to entry.” In short, The Inn is not part of a big hotel chain, and the buyer thought the price, in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States, was worth it. 

Hermann will remain as an advisor until the redo is complete. The Inn encompasses 85 rooms, suites, and bungalows along with a pool, spa, and 24,000 square feet of event space spread out over 21 acres. The reopening is set for November 1 with a “sneak peek” planned during the 9th Annual Taste of Rancho Santa Fe, hosted by the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club at The Inn on Sunday, October 8 from 4-7pm. 

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

While Hermann has shared few details about his plans for The Inn over the past year —  largely alienating members of the community — there are now positive signs that the beloved local landmark is on its way back to its former glory. The Inn’s new owners appointed veteran hotelier Vikram Sood as managing director. Sood has extensive experience operating luxury properties around the world including Four Seasons hotels and resorts. He opened the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island and the Four Seasons Resort Aviara (now Park Hyatt Aviara) in Carlsbad, as well as The Grand Del Mar when it was owned and operated by Doug Manchester’s Grand Resorts. Sood later founded his own advisory firm to help owners and developers of new resorts, including Terranea in Palos Verdes, as well as hotels, luxury residences, and healthcare spaces. Most recently, Sood was vice president of operations for Hostmark Hospitality Group, overseeing ten branded and independent hotels including the historic El Cordova in Coronado and LaFayette in North Park.

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Managing Director Vikram Sood
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Managing Director Vikram Sood

In another promising development, Clique Hospitality, known for the well-regarded Serea restaurant at the Hotel del Coronado, Lionfish at The Pendry, and Temaki Bar Sushi in Encinitas, has signed on to reimagine The Inn’s restaurant and bar. Lilian’s, its signature restaurant which replaces Morada, is named in honor of the late architect Lilian J. Rice, who designed The Inn and the Village of Rancho Santa Fe. Bing Bar pays tribute to Bing Crosby, the late crooner, Hollywood star, and co-founder of the Del Mar Racetrack. “We are thrilled to be a part of the team that is bringing new life to The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe,” says Andy Masi, Clique Hospitality’s founder. “As we imagined these new concepts, we sought to create a restaurant and bar as singular and as special as Rancho Santa Fe, an ode to The Inn’s longstanding role as a gathering place for community.”

Lilian’s patio at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Lilian’s patio at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

Masi, who co-founded the Light Group in Las Vegas with Andrew Sasson in 2001, also brings extensive experience to the table(s). Partnering with MGM Resorts, Masi and Sasson operated a range of restaurants, clubs, and bars until acquired by the Hakkasan Group. A year later, Masi founded Clique Hospitality, operating venues in a variety of new Las Vegas hotels, and in early 2017, three more offerings at the Pendry Hotel, including Lionfish, in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. 

Reached by phone at his Del Mar home, Masi says he and his wife, Electra, met as college students in Boston, lived in Las Vegas, and in 2009 resettled in the North County where they are raising two teenagers.

Last spring, members of GEM, the Chicago-based investment group, whom Masi knows socially, asked him what he thought of The Inn. “It’s a beautiful iconic gem just sitting there,” he replied. Now, barely four months later, Masi and his team are busy tweaking the interior design of The Inn’s restaurant and bar and developing the menus.

Executive Chef Moira Hill, a San Diego native who most recently helmed Little Italy’s Nolita Hall, has also worked in such top restaurants as Campfire, Juniper & Ivy, and Trust. On the menu at Lilian’s: California coastal cuisine including fresh-caught fish, grass-fed meats, and seasonal, sustainable ingredients. “What we’re trying to do is create a very approachable dining experience,” says Masi. That means quality food, but in an environment that’s not stuffy or pretentious. “I’m a simple guy,” says. “I will take a great cheeseburger over a dish of foam any day.”

Lilian’s Executive Chef Moira Hill
Lilian’s Executive Chef Moira Hill

As for the décor, Masi says former owner Steve Hermann did “some incredible things” with hand-crafted furniture, high-end finishes, and beautiful fabrics, a nod to 1920s Hollywood glamour when The Inn was frequented by such Hollywood stars as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. But look for “vintage luxury, nothing shiny or flashy” at Lilian’s, Masi says, and a cozy atmosphere at Bing Bar with a fireplace, wood paneling, exposed beams, and plush furniture offering creative libations and light bites. A cafe off The Inn’s living room, which opens onto a patio, will be a place to grab a cup of coffee and light breakfast in the morning. 

Masi emphasizes that The Inn will embrace locals, not just hotel guests. “We realize that The Inn is the center of community,” he says. “The hotel is the heart of the town. We’re just the stewards.”


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