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

The District of Tofino has put new restrictions in place around alcohol at public events. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino puts new restrictions on alcohol at public events

Town’s council adopts Municipal Alcohol Policy.

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Gord John stands during question period in Ottawa in Sept. 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTIAN DIOTTE, HOUSE OF COMMONS PHOTO SERVICES)
2020: A Year in Review with Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns

NDP MP wants to ‘build back better’ in 2021

Tofino expects to elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Nomination period begins for Tofino byelection

Tofino is set to replace former mayor Josie Osborne, who is now the Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Quebec’s BEI completes investigation into Chantel Moore’s fatal shooting by Edmundston police officer

New Brunswick’s public prosecutions services and chief coroner to conduct public hearing

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Most Read