Merchants see drop in spending, but not as much as feared
South Shore businesses are holding their collective breath in anticipation of what the Fourth of July holiday brings following the devastating Angora fire.
The 3,100-acre fire that consumed 254 homes received national coverage and gave the impression the town is uninhabitable. But the economy in the last week has showed a mixed bag of locals and visitors spending money from Camp Richardson Resort to Stateline’s Dart Liquor.
At the Beacon Bar and Grill, the restaurant and bar was hopping Monday, pleasing manager Bill Carland.
“From what I see compared to last week, this is great,” he said.
That’s promising news to bartender Brian Freitas, who wondered if he would have a job if the devastation ended up burning the lake’s economy as well.
Things were slower for Steve Lannoy, who continued to run Kayak Tahoe tours, despite losing his home in the fire. His employee, Geri Johnson, attributed some of the drop-off in business to the wind and much to the fire.
Harry Van Dam of Dart Liquor said his business has just started to increase for the holiday, but it’s “late developing.” He’s noticed fewer locals frequenting the liquor store. It may be difficult to be festive enough to consume a keg of beer when neighbors and friends have suffered.
Shops around town hope for a better weekend than the last one.
Randy Hokanson, manager of Great Outdoor Clothing Co., said Friday and Saturday were sluggish but Sunday picked up.
“I hope Tahoe doesn’t become an economic disaster,” he said.
Leanne Kankel, who owns Apricot Lane clothing shop in the Factory Stores at the “Y,” hopes for the same thing.
“I was disappointed this weekend,” Kankel said. “I’m hoping the message is getting out to people, and they bring their friends. This is prime time.”
The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority has gained some ground on getting the recovery message out. The air has cleared up substantially, and the devastation was concentrated in a region that’s primarily occupied by permanent residents.
Lodging cancellations have somewhat subsided, but reservations remain about 10 percent down, LTVA Executive Director Patrick Kaler said Monday, two days before the holiday.
The holiday falling smack dab in the middle of the week poses another consideration.
“If (businesses) are looking at their numbers, they need to go back to 2001 to compare,” said Betty “B” Gorman, executive director of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce. The holiday was centered in the week six years ago.
Gorman has expressed concern that visitors will shy away from the lake if it’s perceived as being a disaster zone.
“Our livelihood depends on tourism, and so many people work in the casino industry,” she said.
Occupancy rates stand at 75 to 80 percent for South Shore lodging establishments.