Big holiday, merchants grateful |

Big holiday, merchants grateful

Susan Wood

Note of thanks from businesses to visitors over this past weekend: Welcome to the South Lake Tahoe summer.

Note to self on Monday: avoid westbound Highway 50.

Traffic was reduced to a crawl through town and over Echo Summit, pacing the tranquil American River running alongside the major thoroughfare.

A huge crowd formed in and out of Sprouts Natural Foods Cafe, while owner Tyler Cannon swept the floor.

“We were crushed. We had a near-record weekend. I think when it warms up, more and more people come up,” Cannon said, observing traffic also heading eastbound. “Look at the people going the other way.”

With two more hours left of work to do, a Clean Tahoe truck was caught in the traffic jam at Lakeview Drive at midday. It required two full truckloads to pick up trash along the road.

One Sacramento foursome in a convertible agreed that idling in traffic is part of the Tahoe experience for them, with the driver adding the situation worsens over the Fourth of July.

The flow of vehicles may represent music to the ears of a patient business community coming out of a sputtering shoulder season and lackluster Memorial Day weekend.

Restaurants fared well over July 4.

“We didn’t know if gas prices would affect us, but obviously it didn’t,” Red Hut manager Judy Turner said.

Beacon Assistant Manager Jeff Mervin noticed fewer people on the beach, but more people in the restaurant at Camp Richardson Resort.

“I’m glad the sun came out. It could have spoiled our Fourth,” he said.

Like Cannon and Mervin, Best Western Timber Cove Lodge supervisor Melissa Dilling based part of the visitors flocking into Tahoe on the weather.

“We were afraid it was going to rain again,” she said. “(Memorial Day) was definitely not like this.”

The hotel across from Safeway sold out its rooms on Saturday and Sunday night.

“We had a few people turn around (after checking out) and stay an extra night because they said they didn’t want to deal with the traffic,” she said.

The South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association reported a good holiday weekend for occupancy. And President Jerry Birdwell said he’s noticed visitors are staying longer, an observation and goal made by tourism officials to attract midweek business.

The strong showing this weekend served as the welcome back mat to John Steinbach, the new general manager to Embassy Suites, who replaced Simeon Miranda last week. Miranda was transferred to Hawaii.

Steinbach, who left Tahoe a decade ago and ended up in Portland before his return, enjoyed a full hotel on Saturday and Sunday.

“If I recall, over a three-day holiday, people stay home Friday and come up Saturday morning – unless the fireworks are on Friday,” said Steinbach, a 15-year veteran of the hotel chain.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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