Harborview opens its doors to video conferencing

After closing business in March, hotel offers guests its rooms to conduct virtual meetings

THE HARBORVIEW HOTEL in Port Washington is offering its rooms to customers who need a quiet setting for video conference calls while they are working remotely. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Harborview hotel in Port Washington is taking a novel approach to business in a pandemic, offering rooms by the hour to help people seeking a quiet and peaceful setting for video conferencing calls while they are working remotely. 

The hotel closed its operations on March 20, just before Gov. Tony Evers directed the Department of Health Services to issue a Safer at Home order to close all nonessential businesses and prohibit the public from nonessential travel. 

Owner Eric Lund said the Harborview reopened on April 17 and has since had a few heads in beds, but he wants more people to utilize the rooms even if they don’t need to stay overnight. 

Last week, the hotel began offering rooms with high-speed Wi-Fi access for as long as three hours for $25. Lund said if people book five daily sessions they will receive a sixth session for free.

“I think it’s a creative way to allow people to have the ability to experience something different and yet keep social distancing and all the best practices while being able to get away and change things up,” Lund said. “We get caught up in the normal routines, and I think we are all getting anxious and want to get out and start doing things, but per the guidelines from the governor we have to practice good social distancing so we don’t spread Covid-19.” 

Lund said several people have taken him up on the offer and he expects more people will use the rooms in the coming weeks.

“We understand the times that we’re in right now. There are a lot of people working from home. We know kids are attending online classes at home. Many have Zoom meetings and conference calls where they need a computer to be on Wi-Fi. What we’re finding out is people’s bandwidth at their homes is being pushed to the max and they are running out of bandwidth,” he said. 

“We want people to be safe and still be able to find a respite from their housemates while they are working remotely. It’s a win-win situation.”

The hotel is also letting guests use its conference room to work together while maintaining social distancing.

“We’ve had a few customers that came here and needed to be in the same space for an important conference call, so we gave them a meeting room where they could be 15 to 20 feet away and still be on a conference call. We hope do more of that,” Lund said. 

Lund also said the Harborview, which overlooks Lake Michigan, offers a scenic backdrop for virtual meetings. 

“We understand that some people are hesitant to have their co-workers or boss peer into their home through a laptop. They may even block their screens during a meeting because they are embarrassed they haven’t cleaned their home in weeks,” he said. “Our rooms have floor to ceiling windows that offer natural light and a view of the lake. We have a beautiful asset in Port Washington, and we want people to be able to see it.”

Lund said the rooms are also available to people who may not need a space to work, but are seeking respite from their loved ones at home.

“We’re trying to help people with whatever they need. We don’t want people to go stir-crazy at home,” Manager Cathy Wilger said. “This new initiative isn’t meant to help our business financially.”

Last summer, the hotel completed a more than $3 million renovation project. When it closed in March, Lund, said he expected to lose several hundred thousand dollars. The new initiative isn’t meant to offset the financial losses, he said. 

“The revenue helps, but we are significantly down,” he said.

At the time of the closure, Lund said, he had to furlough all but two managers. Wilger said all full-time employees have since returned to work and she expects all the part-time employees to be back by the summer.

Lund said he remains optimistic that the summer will bring in leisure guests and tourists to Port Washington. 

“We hope the Safer at Home order comes and goes by May 26 and we can start easing back into things and have more people getting out and about,” he said. “We hope to see an impact from business and leisure travel in the weeks to come.”




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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