Buddy Marcum, owner of the Inn at Park Spring in Portland’s West End, spent Saturday calling guests booked for April and canceling their reservations.

“A lot of them already said they’d just change it to May, which is a good sign,” Marcum said. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that this clears up soon.”

Marcum and other Mainers in the lodging industry scrambled on Saturday to call guests and come up with a plan for facing an entire month of empty rooms. On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills announced the suspension of all lodging operations in the state, including hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, inns, short-term rentals and RV parks and campgrounds in response to the coronavirus. The order goes into effect Sunday at noon and lasts until at least April 30.

“I’ve owned four inns, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Marcum said. “It’s crazy.”

Gerard Kiladjian, general manager of the Portland Harbor Hotel in the Old Port, said the hotel already lost 65 percent of its revenue in March, so the suspension of lodging altogether is “a big hit for us.”

“Already we were running very slim, but we had a few guests here and there coming in,” he said. “Now we’re just going to go to absolute minimum staffing levels. We had already furloughed 70 percent of our staff and now we’ve furloughed the rest, and we’re running with a skeleton crew” of just 10 employees.


Kiladjian added that this is the time of year when hotels start getting advance bookings for summer, so the longer the pandemic disrupts things, “the more we’re affecting our peak summer business.”

“That’s going to hurt all of the seasonal places tremendously.”

Steve Hewins, president and CEO of HospitalityMaine, said that everyone he has spoken to, from the state’s larger hotels down to the smallest bed-and-breakfast, understands that the suspension is needed to shorten the length of the coronavirus epidemic, and that large numbers of people visiting the state pose “a real concern and a potential threat.”

But many in the industry have the same questions about the type of guests they are allowed to have in their hotels under the mandate, Hewins said. The order carries exceptions, allowing lodging for people in “vulnerable populations” – including persons at risk of domestic violence, the homeless, and children in emergency placements – as well as for health care workers, or other workers deemed necessary to support public health, public safety, or critical infrastructure.

Hewins said a lot of hotel owners have questions about who qualifies as an essential worker. What about construction workers in town working on an ongoing project who have no other place to stay?


“Some are already housing those people, and they’re wondering do they have to kick those people out?” Hewins said. “We’re telling them no, don’t because the order is not as clear on this as it needs to be.”

Hewins said his organization will be asking the governors’ office for some clarification on the issue early in the new week.

Many in the industry are already thinking about how to survive going forward, Hewins said, and most are applying to the small-business loan program created under the CARES Act that would provide them with eight weeks of funding for their payrolls. They’re eager to keep staff, he said, so that when they’re allowed to open again, they can “kick right into tourism gear.”

“We’re in triage right now in the industry,” he said. “We’re in the emergency room trying to maintain the patient’s status – how to stabilize, how to get funding in place.”

Kiladjian said the Portland Harbor Hotel is applying for the funding because “our plan is to bring every single person back.”

Marcum said he turns on his computer every morning to examine different loan options, and he has already spoken with his mortgage company.


“I really try to be positive,” he said. “I think it will be a busy summer if we can just get past this. People are dying to get out.”

Kiladjian agrees to some extent, although he thinks people will be cautious at first about coming here for an extended stay. They may feel more comfortable taking a day trip or going to a restaurant first, he said. But Kiladjian said if the Great Recession was any indication, Portland’s hospitality industry is in a better position to rebound quickly after this is all over than many other markets “because we are a drive destination.”

“A lot of our guests come by car,” he said. “We are still a preferred destination for people all the way from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to here.”

Jean Ginn Marvin, whose family owns the 109-room Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, said Mills’ order didn’t affect her business as much because the place closed down temporarily March 14. The resort was scheduled to reopen in mid-April, but now they are canceling or postponing all April events, including two weddings and two big conferences. They are now targeting Memorial Day weekend for a reopening. They are applying for loans, and the staff is working out the details of the resort’s new normal. There will be no more buffet breakfasts or communal coffee stations on each floor, and guests will register with a sanitized pen.

Count Marvin among those who thinks business will rebound quickly.

“We think there’s going to be a big pent-up demand,” she said. “That’s what happened to us after 9-11. People viewed Maine as very safe. We got run over. That’s what I think is going to happen again this year.”

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