Hotel industry takes hit from cancellations

Harborview hotel in Port closed its doors last Friday admist Covid-19 pandemic, other area hotels remain in business until further notice

THE HARBORVIEW HOTEL in downtown Port Washington closed its doors to guests on Friday, March 20, due to the recent spike in cancellations. Owner Eric Lund said he hopes to return to business as soon as possible because he has furloughed all but two managers at the hotel. Other area hotels in Port and Grafton remain open, but they are also experiencing a number of cancellations and may eventually shutter operations. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

Area hotels are struggling to stay afloat as people cancel their plans due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Harborview hotel in Port Washington closed on Friday, March 20, owner Eric Lund said.

“We had to make the tough decision to close the Harborview at noon this past Friday and we plan to reopen the morning of Monday, April 13,” Lund said, noting there were no guests at the hotel at the time it closed.

“From a business standpoint, in the days leading up to the closure we only had one or two rooms occupied at best. Obviously, we’ve had a number of cancellations because we do a lot of group business and those groups are not getting together for obvious reasons.”

On Tuesday, March 24, 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 in the latest effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, which is impacting a number of industries like hospitality. 

Lund said he has furloughed all but two managers who remain working at the hotel. 

“We did it as a furlough, so they know they will have a job when they come back,” he said. “We pride ourselves that our staff has the Port Washington charm.” 

According to a press release by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 18,168 hotel-related jobs will be lost in Wisconsin due to the pandemic and 43,345 total jobs that support the hotel industry in the state will be affected as well. 

Prior to the closure, Lund said, the hotel’s bar and restaurant were closed except for take-out orders.   

From November through April, Lund said, the hotel primarily does corporate business as opposed to leisure stays. 

“Right now, from corporate segment and leisure segment, they’re just not traveling right now,” he said.

Lund said closing the hotel will cost his business several hundred thousand dollars.

“It’s mounting every day. When you close, there are a lot of factors you have to consider like bills, utilities, mortgage, supplies from two or three weeks ago and other expenses,” he said. “You have no revenue. It’s a tough situation, but we felt it was best for the staff and everybody involved.”  

Making the closure more difficult at this time is the fact that the hotel underwent a renovation project that totaled more than $3 million last summer.

“It is challenging because last July we completed major renovations that we wanted to showcase to everybody. We had a lot of rooms on the books for this time of year, which is normally slower,” Lund said. “We’re also coming off of our generally slowest time of the year. You can’t pick and choose for something like this to happen.

Lund said he is applying for small business disaster relief loans to help offset the loss of income.

Lund, who owns S&L Hospitality, has eight other hotels in Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota. He said those businesses are still open, but with a minimum number of employees. 

He said his other hotels remain open in the event they are used to house people in a state of emergency when other housing options have been exhausted. 

“We’re trying to go after business that can be provided by a county. Sometimes in these overcrowding situations, they might want to rent hotel rooms,” he said. “In Port Washington, we explored various venues and opportunities, but we didn’t see that as a viable option.”

He said he is cautiously optimistic Harborview will be back in business April 13. 

“The only way we wouldn’t reopen is if there are more mandates, closures and restrictions put into place. It’s hard to speculate what will happen. We have to take it day by day,” he said. “The well being of our guests and staff are paramount. It seems every hour, things change and new information comes out.”

Other area hotels like TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Grafton and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson in Port Washington are open. 

Country Inn & Suites manager Chandra Patel said he has been receiving a number of cancellations for March and April.

“It all started happening when travel restrictions and social distancing was put into place,” he said.

Patel said there are a few corporate guests at the Port Washington hotel, which is offering limited services.

“We can’t keep the breakfast area open for visitors, but we have food to go. The restaurant and fitness center are closed,” he said, noting some employees’ hours have been reduced.

Patel said he is not sure if the hotel will remain open and is waiting for news from corporate officials.

Bruce Kinseth, vice president and co-owner of Kinseth Hospitality, which owns 80 hotels in 13 states including the TownePlace Suites in Grafton, said most of his hotels have about 10% occupancy when they would typically be at 60% this time of year. 

“The big picture is this virus is killing the hotel business,” Kinseth said. “So much of our businesses is business travelers, which has pretty much dried up. Everything from business trips to soccer games have been canceled.”

Kinseth said having a 10% occupancy rate creates a negative cash flow for operational expenses. He said many employees have been furloughed to help offset the costs. For the time being, he expects the Grafton hotel to remain open.

“We’re trying to manage through it. We’re trying to steal business from other people, but there’s no business to steal from,” he said. “This is brutal to the hospitality industry and for our vendors.”




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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.

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