Cedars Inn, Zeballos. (Contributed photo)

Historic hotel and only restaurant in remote Zeballos considers shutting its doors

Cedars Inn unsure about future after series of financial catastrophes, COVID-19 induced tourism dip

The only hotel and restaurant combination in remote Zeballos has found itself on the edge of extinction.

A series of unfortunate events, starting with the 2018 wildfires, continuing through Western Forest Products’ eight-month-long strike, and culminating in the recent pandemic has hurt Cedars Inn to the point where ownership is considering shutting its doors. According to co-owner Christina Lepore, the village’s sole restaurant, Blue Heron — operated by hotel staff — would also cease operations.

In 2018 the hotel was among the properties under an evacuation order for seven months due to the wildfire and landslides that hit Zeballos. The closure cost about $500,000, said Lepore. This year as cancellations poured in due to COVID-19, the financial loss stands at $150,000.

READ MORE : Firefighters “beat down” flames outside of Zeballos

With all the setbacks, Lepore felt she was “going backwards” business-wise. Despite the relief offered for small businesses by the federal and provincial governments, Lepore felt that it still did not “fix the situation” of her business, primarily because of tourism’s uncertain future.

“It’s too risky to be in tourism now,” she said. “I refuse to take loans if I can’t pay it back.”

Built in 1936 during the peak of the gold rush that help establish the town, the hotel, which was previously a hospital, still retains designs from an era gone by.

Lepore and her husband, Dan O’Connor, bought it in 2003, when it was called Mason Motor Lodge and was the only hotel in town. The 15-room facility usually has full occupancy during summer, with September being its busiest month.

During these months, tourism churns the economic wheels in Zeballos. Most of the clientele comes from the U.K., Europe and the U.S. International tour companies usually book a two-week trip for tourists consisting of lodging at Cedars Inn, meals at the Blue Heron, followed by kayaking and wildlife expeditions.

“Unless a vaccine is developed, I don’t see international tourism picking up,” said Lepore.

Even though Blue Heron is the only restaurant in Zeballos, the customer base from within the village is very small.

“Keeping the restaurant open for two or three people costs more money,” she said.

While future plans are still fluid, Lepore said she is considering turning the building into long-term rental suites.

A couple of bookings still remain for September from people in the vicinity, and with plans to re-open B.C. underway, Lepore wants to wait and see if local tourism might still be able to save the hotel this summer.

CoronavirusTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Alert Bay tested for COVID-19 antibodies, results prove efforts were effective

Just 3.7 per cent of people tested have the antibody

BC Parks acquires private land in Cape Scott Provincial Park

Land previously held by B.C. land and cattle mogul Rudy Nielsen

Family Literacy Society surveying essential skills among displaced workers

Survey results will help get training opportunities to fufill real needs on the north Island

A thousand items donated to the Port Hardy RCMP’s summer toy drive

‘Building strong relationships with the people of our communities is fundamental to our success here’

Man arrested after stabbing incident at makeshift camp near Vancouver Island mall

RCMP in Parksville report 28-year-old man taken into custody without incident

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Most Read