"In hindsight we can state that we should have never accepted the booking," the hotel management said in a press release issued on Sunday. "We can also state that we should have broken the contract as soon as we understood that this arrangement was going to create strong reactions, both among our guests and our co-workers."
In the aftermath of the gala, the hotel faced a storm of angry protests on social media, with thousands of dissenters giving it one-star reviews on its Facebook page, prompting the hotel management to temporarily stop the evaluation option. Some of the users went so far as to describe Grand Hotel as "an indiscreet crappy hotel that rents out its premises to Nazis." At the same time, hotel staff gave anonymous interviews criticizing the event.
Mattias Karlsson, who leads the Sweden Democrats faction in Swedish parliament, called the hotel's public apology "bizarre" and "hypocritical."
"The strong left-liberal forces that abound in Stockholm and on Twitter have huge power over companies and institutions in a way that is disturbing," Karlsson told the Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet. "Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are the cornerstones of democracy. Given that you may dislike someone's opinions, we are on a dangerous path if you start campaigning against others' freedom of speech and assembly."
According to Grand Hotel CEO Pia Djupmark, managers had tried to shirk the responsibility of hosting the event as far back as seven weeks ago, but had been unable to do so due to the contract they had signed.
"Breaking a contract is a big step, and we decided to stick to our tradition of fair-dealing, that a contract should not be broken. In this case, however we should have broken it," Djupmark said.
The hotel admitted that this was the first time in its near 150-year history that the establishment, which strives to become "a neutral meeting place," actually took sides and made a public comment on any of its guests.
The Sweden Democrats directed sharp criticism at the Grand Hotel management, claiming that the hotel's reputation and trust capital were hurt.
"Somehow it never occurred to them before, even when they let Saudi Arabia celebrate their national day there. Now, however, they regret allowing democratically elected politicians to hand out a democracy prize to a freedom fighter," Mattias Karlsson told Aftonbladet.
The right-wing Sweden Democrats, who effectively remain Sweden's only true opposition party, have been recently exposed to various smear campaigns, including a tirade delivered by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, in which SD were accused of being a Nazi party. Löfven was later forced to retract his statement as unfounded.