LISCOMB – The latest COVID-19 lockdown has turned Liscombe Lodge into a ghost resort, but new owner Mike Melenchuk isn’t spooked.
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “We’re not going anywhere.”
The Nova Scotia hotelier – who bought the 68-room resort from the provincial government earlier this year – with plans to transform the property into the “jewel of the Eastern Shore” – says he’s had to cancel bookings and shut the doors to the public in the wake of the province’s tough, new emergency measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Mother’s Day was going to be our opening weekend. We had a number of rooms booked for a busy weekend, but this whole thing is beyond our control. We have no business. Our [hotel] manager is only working part-time now.”
Melenchuk says that, while he’s still taking reservations, opening in time for the May long weekend is now out of the question.
“It’s not possible to know when we’ll be up and operating,” he says.
Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced further restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on May 7, including extended school closures, tighter border restrictions and isolation requirements for rotational workers, and limits on shoppers.
“The situation we’re in right now in Nova Scotia is very serious,” Rankin said at the public briefing. “Our health staff are overwhelmed and we need to get things under control. We understand that extending province-wide restrictions through May and closing our border is disruptive, but it has to be done. This is about protecting our people.”
On Saturday (May 8), the province imposed tougher restrictions on local travel and commerce, requiring Nova Scotians to designate one shopper per household per retail store.
“Nova Scotians are to remain in their own communities except for essential travel such as for work, necessary shopping and medical appointments including testing and vaccination appointments,” the public notice stated. “Community is mainly defined as one’s municipality. Nova Scotians should remain as close to home as possible.”
Despite the emergency, however, Melenchuk will stay the course he charted last August when he purchased Liscombe from the province for $450,000 on condition that he spend $1 million on renovations, continue it as a lodge and maintain its workforce – and their wages – until October 2022.
“We’re going to keep doing our work and get the place ready… do all the things that have to be done,” he said.
With guestrooms, chalets, cottages, meeting space, restaurants, hiking trails and river tours, Liscombe is an important tourism anchor, providing crucial layover amenities to travelers visiting destinations along Highway 7 between Sheet Harbour and Historic Sherbrooke Village.
When he bought the property, Melenchuk told the Journal: “We’re in it for the long-haul because it’s the whole package that is, in my opinion, important. I think that Liscombe should and could be the jewel of the Eastern shore. Do I have plans? I’m well into my 70s, but I have enough plans to last as long as I live.”
Although the province is in no position to speculate on when restrictions will be lifted, Melanchuk said: “I think there’ll be a pent-up demand [after this]. I believe that we will be busy regardless.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal