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SeaWorld, Hard Rock plan layoffs at Florida properties

No workforce reductions have been announced in Tampa just yet.
Patrons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay line up for security checks before entering the amusement park in June. SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company of Busch Gardens, says some employees it has furloughed will be laid off permanently.
Patrons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay line up for security checks before entering the amusement park in June. SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company of Busch Gardens, says some employees it has furloughed will be laid off permanently. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 8, 2020
Updated Sep. 8, 2020

Large-scale layoffs are coming to two Florida brands that specialize in tourism and entertainment: SeaWorld and Hard Rock.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has notified the state of a mass layoff at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, where up to 1,527 workers could be affected. Many had been let go early in the coronavirus pandemic; some had been brought back to work in June.

According to the state notice, the resort will extend some of those temporary layoffs through the year. If employees are not brought back by Dec. 31, the layoffs will become permanent.

Seminole Gaming spokesman Gary Bitner said the layoff notice represented a “worst-case scenario” that might not come to fruition.

“The Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood hopes to rehire a number of these team members, as business continues to improve,” he said in a statement. “A majority of the team members at the complex are already back at work.”

Meanwhile, in Orlando, SeaWorld Entertainment last week filed a notice with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying it had reached a “plan of termination” for an unnamed number of temporarily furloughed employees.

SeaWorld had previously furloughed 90 percent of its workforce in March due to “the sudden and unforeseeable economic impacts of the pandemic,” it wrote in the SEC filing, although it hired some back when its parks reopened in June.

“While we were able to bring thousands of furloughed ambassadors back to work and hoped to bring back everyone, the current environment requires us to set up the company for long-term success,” the company said in a statement. “SeaWorld has determined that it must transition certain park and corporate personnel from a furloughed status to a permanent layoff.”

Related: Busch Gardens, SeaWorld attendance drops 96 percent due to coronavirus

SeaWorld reported the company would incur about $2.5 million to $3 million in severance costs due to the layoffs. In a quarterly earnings call last month, the company said attendance at its 12 parks had dropped 96 percent in April, May and June, leading to a net loss of $131 million. Its San Diego park only reopened on a limited basis in late August.

Neither company specified whether the layoffs would impact their Tampa properties ― the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Busch Gardens or Adventure Island.

Related: An exit interview with outgoing Busch Gardens president Stewart Clark

Other Florida Hard Rock hotels and cafes had previously laid off or furloughed more than 1,000 workers, according to state filings. Bitner said he was unaware of any impending layoffs at the Tampa resort, which reopened for business in May.

“Business in Tampa has been strong,” he said.

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