The general manager of a new downtown Reading hotel said today he was shocked that its executive chef was charged with indecent assault.
Craig Poole said John Zuwiala, who has been fired, recently served as an usher for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia, which requires the highest level of security clearance.
“John had great references and security clearances,” said Poole, general manager of the soon-to-open DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Reading, a key cog in efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown. “I don’t think that anyone thought or knew anything.”
Zuwiala owns Hauté Chocolate Café at 711 Penn Ave. in West Reading, which Poole said Zuwiala was trying to sell.
The charge stems from an alleged March incident, according to Poole. Zuwiala’s hiring at the DoubleTree was announced in July.
“Things were good until they [police] walked in the door and said ‘You’re under arrest,’ ” Poole said of Friday’s arrest of Zuwiala.
This morning, Poole said, he was interviewing another candidate for executive chef.
The $63 million, 209-room DoubleTree is on the 700 block of Penn Street, and, according to Poole, will bring 600,000 people a year to the city.
The hotel, directly across from Santander Arena, is expected to be an anchor for the entire city and an economic driver for surrounding businesses and Berks County, Poole said.
Poole said a sales team has secured more than $1 million in catering banquets and $3 million in room revenue for 2016, with six conventions booked for next year.
The hotel also is hiring for the more than 150 other new jobs the hotel will bring, according to Poole. The hotel’s Sept. 29 job fair brought 1,800 job seekers to Santander Arena.
“Sometimes before something great happens, a little storm comes,” Poole said. “I’ll hire a great person and it will be a great situation.”