Business does well despite fire |

Business does well despite fire

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The fire that erupted under the Heavenly gondola last week didn’t appear to dramatically dampen business over the long holiday weekend, Lake Tahoe tourism officials said Monday.

“Sure, we had some minimal impact. But we were incredibly fortunate the impact was not nearly as severe,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Bill Chernock said.

The LTVA Central Reservations line reported a few cancellations and many inquiries from those who booked rooms and wanted to know if they should come up to the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Up to 28 percent of the nation’s office workers had decided to extend the holiday over four days, a Minnesota-based study showed.

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“Having the holiday on Thursday does better (for business),” Chernock said.

When July 4 fell on Wednesday last year, the weather was cooler and the timespan for most workers was shorter.

This year, South Shore businesses from the Beacon Bar and Restaurant and Raleys to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and the Black Bear Inn were busy with a steady flow of customers. Visitors appeared undaunted by the fire nearby.

On the evening the fire broke out, Harrah’s Forest Buffet customers on the 18th floor watched the firefighting helicopters race back and forth between the lake and the slopes with diligence.

The Tahoe Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center reported 360 visitors on Friday and 305 the next day. In the peak season in August, an average of 300 people a day stop by the center off Highway 50 at the Round Hill Square, chamber Executive Director Kathy Farrell said.

“My overall impression in the visitors center was that we were extremely busy because of the fire,” Farrell said. “The few canceled rooms were filled by evacuees. It was well-handled.”

Such was the case at the Embassy Suites.

“It didn’t hamper (bookings). The business was already in town,” Embassy Director of Marketing Bill Cottrill said.

Scores of people driving into town lined the sidewalks and gazed up at the display of nature’s fury.

Despite the fire encroaching Ridge Tahoe’s 11 acres, the time-share resort ended up keeping the majority of its owners during the ordeal.

Assistant Resort Manager Scott Williams estimated about a quarter of the occupants — many from the San Francisco Bay Area — decided to return home. At full capacity, the resort — in the direct line of fire — accommodates 1,500 people in 350 units.

Thirty firefighters, who stayed in the resort clubhouse, refreshed their spirits in the pool.

“It’s been a long week for everyone,” Williams said, adding staffers plan to keep an eye on any hot spots flaring up.

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