By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
“We’re excited to get some things rolling,” says Tyler Herrick, general manager of the Queensbury Hotel in downtown Glens Falls and the new Fairfield Inn at Exit 18 in Queensbury, both owned by Ed Moore and his family.
“Our numbers have been horrible,” Mr. Herrick said without sounding an alarm. “We had 85 percent occupancy at this ime last year. If we get to 20 percent this week, I’ll do a back flip. We’ve been at about 6 percent.”
“The hotel has been open,” he said. “But no one is promoting travelers coming. We’ve only been open for essential travel, but we have had very little direction from the Department of Health on exactly what that means.”
“People are going to travel, so let’s be ready,” Mr. Herrick says. “The state is asking people as citizens to stay home, but there’s not National Guard checkpoints out on the Northway.
“We have seen an uptick even in the last week, in things like construction, other essential worker travel…As that’s happening, we’ve seen a pick up in reservations, especially at the Fairfield Inn.”
He said what’s “essential” travel has been self-determined. The hotel’s guests have included nurses and family members checking on residents in nursing homes.
Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Herrick anticipated some last-minute check-ins from casual visitors too. “It’s going to be beautiful and you’ll see people and stay overnight on a whim. That’s what I’m hoping, but not promoting,” he said.
It turned out that for the holiday, “on the rooms side we were still down 75 percent in occupancy compared to the prior year, but I am a cup overflowing guy, so 75 percent down is better than 90 percent down that we have had since March 20th!”
Mr. Herrick said their Memorial Day Family Meal barbecue offer got “a nice response. Fed about 250.”
Mr. Herrick is also part of Warren County’s re-opening task force. “We are putting together standards for our industry and other businesses as we reopen.”
He says they’re sending the message: “Not only are we home to one of the cleanest lakes in the world, but our tourism, hotels, restaurants — we want our guests, visitors and locals to know, this is one of the cleanest regions you can visit.”
“The regional collaboration really has blown me away…” Mr. Herrick says. “What maybe used to be competitors now…are talking to the whole group every day, full flow open information. It’s great to see and I hope that continues. Maybe this was what the region needed to really come together. It’s not Glens Falls versus Lake George or Bolton Landing, Hague or Chester. It truly is a regional approach.”
At the Queensbury and Fairfield Inn, “we are starting to bring back workers to get ready, to shine everything up again, and do some preventative maintenance work.”
He said that at the Q, they’ve “taken this opportunity” of down time to begin a full demolition and restoration of the front desk in the lobby, still underway, “to bring it back to the 1926 style…It’s the last piece of the lobby, after all that work we did in 2016. After that, everything original from the 1926 hotel will be completed.”
Mr. Herrick said they’re also working with Mahoney Alarms “to clean up our archaic alarm systems.”
Mr. Herrick said the Q had planned to break ground in August on the expansion of the Adirondack Room banquet hall but that’s been pushed back, likely for a year.
“It’s about demand, honestly. We were very confident that we would be able to fill the hall with 350 to 500-person events but, with coronavirus, those big events in one room, they’re not gonna happen for a while.” Mr. Herrick said he’s still certain “it will happen, just not this year.”
Right now their focus is on getting ready for outdoor dining.
“We’ve been trying to lobby the county and Governor for dining in Phase 2 of reopening, hopefully as soon as June 2 or 3, at least on the patio and seating outside of Fenimore’s Pub. We just reopened up the full Fenimore’s menu for takeout.”
Mr. Herrick said their nightly family meals — $25 for a homestyle dinner such as meatloaf or chicken parmesan, with salad, bread and dessert — “have flattened out a little, but we are still feeding about 100 to 150 people a night.” He thinks warmer weather and outdoor grilling have impacted sales.
He expects to carry the takeout family meals idea forward, even after indoor dining resumes. “Maybe Sunday to Thursday,” and likely for something more than the $25 bargain price that was instituted more as a community service and to keep the kitchen going, than for profit.
“Overall,” Mr. Herrick said, “We are gearing up and getting people back. We’re increasing our already strong sanitary and cleaning procedures, planning to space guests as much as possible, maybe limiting to 50 percent occupancy at first. Our number one job has always been the health and safety of our guests.
Mr. Herrick comments, “It’s the wild wild west out there now,” with fast-changing rules and vendors pushing products.
“When we reopen,” he expects, “you’ll see a lot more of the safety measures out in public. Gone are the days when housekeepers are supposed to be like Ninjas. Now I like the fact that I see the lobby porter cleaning up, the bussers in the dining room wiping down the chair and spraying the table after the guest gets up.”
They’ve done away with extraneous items in the lodging rooms. Rather than printed room service menus and info hand-outs, they are shown on in-house television, or sent by text and email, minimizing “touching points.”
Mr. Herrick wrestles with safety vs. sustainability. He notes that single use packaged condiments, for example, create more trash for the landfill than items served in reusable, washable ramekins. Which is better, he wonders, real plates that can be washed and sterilized versus disposable paper products. It’ll be a question of what the clientele demands, expects.
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