ATLANTIC CITY — The Chelsea hoped to hire almost 100 people with a job fair Wednesday afternoon.
And the hotel had far more hopefuls than that lined up to apply for those jobs well before a security guard even unlocked the door to let in the first 10 candidates.
At 12:50 p.m., 10 minutes before the official start, about 160 people waited in a line that stretched from The Chelsea’s entrance almost to the Boardwalk, half a block away. As they stood there, the wind whipped off the ocean and down Chelsea Avenue with gusts of 20-plus miles an hour.
By that point, Robert Hall had been waiting more than four hours for the chance at a job in “maintenance, anything available — cook,” he said, in the last few minutes before the start. “If I don’t know it, I’ll learn it.”
Hall, of Atlantic City, wanted to be the first in line, and he was. Right behind him was Ronald Roberts, of Galloway Township, who lost his job as a cook when the Showboat Casino Hotel closed last year. He said he showed up at 8:25 a.m., even though he knew that The Chelsea has made it clear that most of the 100 or so hires would be for summer jobs.
“If it’s just summer, I want this job,” said Roberts, who had spent 10 years at Showboat. “I’m not a lazy man. And I have a family to take care of.”
A few minutes later, a security man wearing a tie and suit jacket opened the door and counted off 10 applicants walking through it. But he wouldn’t let one in — because the guy’s sneakers violated The Chelsea’s previously announced ban on jeans or sneakers.
That held the line up a bit, and shortly after that, the management decided to open the doors to all the applicants — to save them from standing out in that biting wind, said Francesca Santoro, the hotel’s general manager.
Still, some candidates weren’t even considered, if they didn’t follow The Chelsea’s stated “dress-for-success” policy for the job fair.
“No sneakers and no jeans,” the guard kept repeating, as the people in line moved inside the hotel, which opened as The Chelsea in 2008.
That rule left out Pam Cameron, of Ventnor, who had been near the front of the waiting crowd but kept walking down Chelsea Avenue when the guard saw her tan sneakers and turned her away at the door.
“I don’t have any other shoes right now,” said Cameron, who had hoped to get a job serving food, or drinks, or anything.
By the general manager’s estimate, about 65 percent of the open positions were in some aspect of food and beverages. But Carol Ruffu, The Chelsea’s spa manager, had an interview table of her own to try to fill six jobs. Paulette White, a front-desk manager, was also there to try to find five or six people.
Santoro repeated the hotel’s warning that most of the people getting jobs Wednesday would only have them into September. Still, she estimated that 15 or so of the hires could get work through the next off-season.
Plus, she introduced several managers who were interviewing candidates Wednesday — and said that more than half of the hotel’s managers worked their way up to those jobs after starting as front-line employees.
“I was a housekeeping dispatcher, and now I’m director of engineering,” said Robert Petruzzi, who would be on the management side of the tables.
And Jenna Andrews, the hotel’s human-resources director — who would interview every successful job-fair candidate — started out as an assistant in that department in The Chelsea’s early days, she said.
The general manager was happy to say that she lives in Atlantic City, and she likes to hire people who do too.
“They’re invested in the community, and when we have inclement weather, they can still get here,” Santoro said.
Todd Hettrich, of Atlantic City, wore a tie Wednesday to look for a job in security. He had 30 years of experience working in his hometown’s casinos — enough to have two close on him.
“Playboy and the Plaza,” he said, mentioning one of the first Atlantic City casinos to close and one of the last batch — Trump Plaza was in the group of four that shut down last year and threw 8,000 people out of work.
But then Hettrich had to say goodbye hustle inside. He was on his way to a job interview.
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