Cedars Inn, Zeballos. (Contributed photo)

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

A new daycare at Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre is slated to open in September. (Rendering courtesy of West Shore Parks and Recreation)
Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre brings daycare centre to Colwood

New centre to offer 80 spaces come September

Local cyclist Max McCulloch catches air off a jump in the newly redesigned Organ Donor trail at Mount Work mountain biking park. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Mountain bikers lining up for Hartland’s newest trail

Revamped black diamond run ‘what the community needed’

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia’s Float the Boat fundraiser campaign is underway. The goal is to raise $25,000 in donations to help with the cost of running virtual programs and onsite operations. (Courtesy Maritime Museum of B.C.)
Maritime Museum of B.C. looks to Float the Boat in Victoria

Fundraiser proceeds will support multitude of virtual programs and onsite operations

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read