Historic hotel reopens 1 year after 3-alarm fire

Michelle Kim/Staff

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Editor’s note: Staff writer Octavia Sun translated certain interviews with Norman Lam from Mandarin Chinese to English. 

Berkeley’s historic Nash Hotel reopened this summer after being closed for about a year of renovations after a fire in June 2013.

A three-alarm fire last year started inside a single unit on the second floor, spreading down the hallway and to part of the third floor. Afterward, the hotel closed to update its facilities to meet current city and fire safety codes, according to manager Norman Lam.

The changes included new paint and insulation inside rooms, upgraded electricity and plumbing, the addition of automatic fire sprinklers throughout the building and the installation of a 24-hour automatic fire alarm system in every guest room.

Nash Hotel, located on 2045 University Ave., first opened 90 years ago. The hotel had needed to update its facilities for years but did not because of financial difficulties, according to Lam.

“We did not have sufficient funding and budget for upgrade required due to fire code change,” Lam said in an email. “The city had granted us time for the upgrade due to financial hardship. In fact, we had started setting profit aside to work with the city for years.”

He added that the hotel has now passed city inspection.

According to Lam, a private investigator found that a tenant had started the fire in his bed the morning of June 11 last year. Harvey Dong, co-manager of Eastwind Books of Berkeley, which is across the street from Nash Hotel, recalls fire trucks blocking the road that morning.

Although no serious injuries resulted from the fire, Lam estimated the cost of damages to be in the seven-figure range.

Lam said business since the reopening has been slow. The hotel has since put up a billboard to attract more customers.

“If they think you’re closed, people will find other places to stay,” Lam said.

Contact Octavia Sun at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @octavia_sun.