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Holiday business is welcome relief

Sally J. Taylor

The new year got off to a great start for South Shore businesses.

Manuel Zepeda, owner of Taqueria Jalisco, was open for business New Year’s Day, uncertain if it was a good idea or not. It turned out to be a great move. About 600 people ate at the small restaurant tucked in the back of a building on Harrison Avenue. A normal day is 200 to 300 people, he said.

“I got the New Year off on the right foot,” Zepeda said Friday, buzzing with excitement for the coming year.

On the other end of town, business at Horizon Casino Resort kept hopping through the holidays.

“It’s been quite a season, very, very successful (from Dec. 29th on),” Sandy Hoy, Horizon’s director of marketing, said through the exhaustion of long, though happily busy, days.

“I’d like to thank Mother Nature on behalf of Horizon for planning the storms a little better this year,” she said.

Kathleen Farrell, executive director of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce, noted that traffic was unusually heavy.

“Which is delightful to me. I’m not sure how much they’re spending but the bodies are here,” Farrell said.

Ski resorts also benefited from warm temperatures, mostly open roads and an early blanket of snow that kept runs white until a fresh layer fell on Friday. Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly ski resorts all reported record crowds from Christmas through New Year’s weekend.

“Compared to last year, we’re light years ahead,” said Sierra’s Tracy Owen Chapman, director of marketing.

Last year, a major snowstorm dumped about 5 feet of snow in the basin a few days before Christmas, snarling traffic and discouraging visitors.

New Year’s Eve proved even worse. Heavy rains washed away snow at lake level, flooded some city streets, caused slides that closed U.S. Highway 50 for most of two months and created major flooding in Northern California, the bread-and-butter market for South Shore tourism.

Economic recovery has been slow, making the brisk holiday business this year that much more welcome.

“Last year was not a tough one to beat,” said Lakeside Inn and Casino General Manager Lon Rusk, who characterized holiday business at the casino as “quite good.”

With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Thursdays, the holiday started earlier than usual and was expected to be great through the weekend.

“It’s nice to see it snow so we can pack the slopes again,” Rusk said on Friday. “The timing (of holiday and snow) was fantastic.”

The hotel at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe has been sold out since Christmas and the casino volume has been “extremely strong,” said John Packer, director of communications.

“All in all it’s been a real successful New Year’s Eve,” he said. “I hope it bodes well for 1998. We’re glad to have 1997 behind us.”


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