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The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa shut its doors earlier this month after an electrical fire, followed by a flooding incident, caused extensive damage to the building. The hotel will remain closed until Dec. 1, 2017. Wochit

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You can’t book a room to stay at the Hilton until March of next year, but you can book a table, a wedding or a meeting space right now.

The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa, which closed abruptly last June in the wake of an electrical fire followed by a flooding incident, remains closed to overnight stays and will not open its guest rooms to leisure travelers until March 7, 2018, said interim general manager Robert Marcil. The hotel expects to host a previously-booked business group in late February, added director of sales and marketing Andrew Neubauer.

The Hilton, which closed for approximately six months last year for a previous round of renovations, is taking advantage of the forced closure to enhance its guest rooms, part of an approximately $40 million upgrade that also includes modernizing and improving the pool area, lobby and public spaces.

“We’ve already renovated the pool, the restaurants and the lobby," Marcil said. "The guest rooms were set to be renovated in 2018 anyway, so we’re doing it all at once."

He praised the cooperation of the City of Marco Island government, which granted a certificate of occupancy for the restaurant, bar, event spaces, pool area and main lobby, even while work continues on the hotel’s 320 rooms.

Marcil is presiding over a hotel with no guests, sort of like a ship in drydock or a school with no pupils. He's been making the best of the situation, though, emphasizing outreach to the community and stressing the availability of meetings, beachfront weddings and Gulf-view dining. The hotel is even offering meals directly on the beach.

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“We can give you service on the beach, with the same menu as in the restaurant,” he said.

The main restaurant at the Hilton has been rebranded as “The Deck at 560,” along with the Bar at 560, with “560” being the hotel’s address on Collier Blvd., across from the Marco Walk shops. The Hilton also has a “grab and go” outlet called Market 560, which offers quick and easy, yet chef-prepared, foods such as muffins, Danish, deli sandwiches and wood-fired pizza, perfect for a picnic on the beach or a jaunt in the boat.

The menu for the Deck at 560 demonstrates the hotel is not content to just hang its hat on its sweeping beach view, although Marcil doesn’t tire of pointing out “God’s majesty on our doorstep.” The bar features specialty drinks including the Sunset Bloody Mary, made with Tito’s vodka and a proprietary Bloody Mary mix, garnished with a jumbo shrimp and jumbo rasher of bacon, and the Marco Beach Tea, which features rum, vodka, gin, tequila, and triple sec, yet manages to taste as innocuous as lemonade.

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Executive chef Corey Hepburn and food and beverage manager John Belmar have created a number of tasty and attractive dishes featuring their take on traditional favorites, including a pressed Cubano sandwich, shrimp or black grouper tacos, and a Mediterranean flatbread with spinach, sun-dried tomato, roasted peppers, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, mozzarella and feta cheeses with a balsamic reduction.

With parking at such a premium on Marco Island, it's useful to know that since there are no overnight guests, the Hilton's parking lot can easily accommodate restaurant patrons. The Deck at 560 is open for Thanksgiving dinner, and recently hosted a fashion show benefiting the Marco Patriots, a group that helped so many in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Speaking of the hurricane, Marcil said they were lucky because they had minimal effects from the storm, and didn’t lose too much ground on their efforts to get the rooms reopened; however, he has not been holing up in the hotel, but rather taking it on the road to further the goal of longtime owners Olshan Properties to “be part of the fabric of the commmunity.”

The hotel participated in the recent Fire-Rescue Foundation's chili cookoff and Chamber of Commerce's craft beer festival at The Esplanade, and is providing the hors d’oeuvres for the Marco Island Center for the Arts “Second Tuesday” gallery openings both tonight and Dec. 12. It's also hosting the Chamber of Commerce's December “After Five” gathering.

Marcil is looking forward to the hotel’s reopening for overnight guests, as well as the 10,000-square foot spa that is part of the property.

“Our service levels will be extraordinary,” he said.

As interim GM, Marcil expected to be at the hotel only until mid-November, but has been asked to remain into December, he said. Interviewing for a permanent general manager is proceeding, and the new hire could start around the time that the JW Marriott up the street installs a new GM to replace longtime head Rick Medwedeff.

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