Hotel’s history of highlights

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The Umhlanga lighthouse is near the Beverly Hills hotel.

Durban - The glamorous and sophisticated Beverly Hills hotel may be 50 years old, but it’s still as young at heart and as popular today as it was at its opening. But with half a century under its belt, it boasts a colourful and unique history.

The landmark hotel first opened its doors in December, 1964. Sol Kerzner’s inaugural luxury hotel was named after his daughter, Beverly, and was the first hotel in KwaZulu-Natal to achieve five-star status.

Royalty, sporting stars, Hollywood celebrities and heads of state have all passed through its doors. They include Cliff Richard, Matt Monro, Sigourney Weaver, rap stars Snoop Lion and Lil Wayne and the Manchester United football team.

The Beverly Hills also hosted the Greek squad during the 2010 World Cup, when the lobby was filled with fans looking for autographs.

Members of the Zulu royal family also treat the hotel like a home away from home.

But, like any glamorous grand dame, it doesn’t come cheap. Standard rooms range from R3 800 to R5 000 a night over the Durban July weekend, while staying in the presidential suite will set you back anywhere from R9 000 to R12 000, depending on the season.

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Dennis Veerabudrum has worked at the hotel for 40 years. PICTURES: SIYANDA MAYEZA

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The hotel has 88 rooms, all of which face the ocean and offer glorious, uninterrupted views.

General manager John de Canha, who has been at the helm for three years, said managing the hotel had been one of the highlights of his career. “The first hotel I managed was the Park View Hotel in Durban 40 years ago. Then I managed and built hotels in Miami, Arizona, Toronto and Dubai, and I did this because I knew that I was going to return to South Africa with my international experience and implement it in hotels here,” he said, adding that the hotel was a celebratory venue for those wanting to mark special events.

The hotel has 115 members of staff, one of whom is Dennis Veerabudrum. At 67 he is the hotel’s longest-serving staff member.

He began working there 40 years ago, starting off as a waiter. Today he is the supervisor of the hotel’s signature restaurant, The Sugar Club.

“When I started here 40 years ago I was just a learner waiter. I lived in Verulam at the time, so applying to the hotel for the position was easy because it was so close,” said Veerabudrum, who has worked under 22 general managers at the hotel.

“I started at the Sugar Club in 1971 – it was called the Society Room back then. I was nervous at first because of all the rich and famous people who came to the hotel, but I got used to that. Sol was here all the time with his parents. I called him ‘Move’ because he was always on the move. He was never in one place,” he said.

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2014/05/14 durban.Beverly Hills hote manager John De Canha . PICTURE: SIYANDA MAYEZA

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Although he cannot recall the exact year, Veerabudrum was promoted to supervisor of the Copa Cabana nightclub in the hotel. “That was the best nightclub around, people came from all over to party there. I loved it and got to meet people like Matt Munro and Cliff Richard.”

He said the highlights of his career had been meeting a number of Bollywood and football stars.

Another memory that has stuck with him is a group of six Londoners staying there for a long weekend who ordered 60 bottles of Dom Perignon over the weekend. Since it cost R400 a bottle, the bill totalled a cool R24 000.

Referring to his early days at the hotel as the “golden years”, Veerabudrum said he missed the Sunday seafood buffet the most.

“A lot has changed, especially the interior of the hotel, the menus and, of course, the staff over the years, but what I miss the most is the Sunday buffet. It was so amazing because I had never seen so much seafood in my life.” - The Star

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