Will we be open for Fishing Opener?
Like many of you, we have been very affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. And we are scared/worried/stressed. No, we aren’t sick. We haven’t had a death in our families, we don’t even personally know anyone who has died from it. Actually, we don’t personally even know anyone who got sick from it. But we did get shut down in Belize and lost over 100 thousand dollars from lost reservations. And then had to leave our business/home there and don’t know when we will be allowed to return.
For weeks we have worried what will happen this summer and if we will be open. Not opening Birch Forest Lodge this summer would be catastrophic for us. As a small business owner, particularly one that relies on 3 months a year for 90% of our revenue, any closure greatly affects us. We don’t want anyone to die. We don’t want anyone to suffer or get sick. We also don’t want to lose our home.
There I said it. We’ve been dancing around things for several weeks. Many many people have called/emailed asking us if we will be open this summer. And several have called/emailed to cancel reservations. Each time we try to be brave and tell them we are “planning” to be open or “we are still a few weeks away from that time frame-things might change”. But in our hearts we worry that we won’t be open or we will be open and no one will come. Then we won’t make our mortgage payment and will go bankrupt. For us losing our business means we will lose our home. And while that isn’t the same as dying of COVID 19, it will be very painful and devastating for our family. So many people have asked us lately about Belize and if we expect to be back there next winter. Reality is, right now we are worried if we will still be here in Minnesota. Because if we don’t open the resort here in Minnesota this summer, we won’t have the option to live here any more.
We know there are those out there who disagree with us. They say the government will step in and save us. We wish we could believe that. We applied right away for an EIDL loan/grant and the PPP loan that was introduced via the recent 2.2 trillion dollar stimulus package. We were denied for both. We have a loss of income insurance policy to cover our mortgage payment if there was ever a government shutdown or natural disaster that kept us from being able to operate for a summer. We were told the COVID 19 pandemic is not covered by our insurance policy. We’re sorry if us wanting and trying to be open offends you. We simply don’t want to lose our home and business.
As a family we have been praying and fasting for those who have been suffering from this pandemic. And we’ve prayed for a way to operate this summer. This past week the state of Minnesota has released guidelines for resorts to open and operate after May 4. This is fantastic news! Here are the details of what has been said. And please keep in mind this is for now, things could change for the better and more things open up if the situation improves and/or continues to stabilize.
- Lodging portions of resorts can open. (yeah!)
- Guests staying at resorts do not need to be members of critical or essential sectors.
- Communal areas must be closed.
- Any equipment or facilities open to general use must be closed or put away.
- Cleaning standards must be up to state regulations
- Social distancing must be practiced.
- Hot food is not allowed to be served. Any food service must be takeout. Grocery sales are still allowed.
- Campgrounds are still closed.
What does this mean for us and you? Here is what we have been told by the state resort association and our plan.
Lodging. We will be open. The cabins will be open and ready to rent on May 8 for those interested in fishing on May 9. Currently we only have a couple reservations prior to late May. If you are coming in May, you won’t have any problems with social distancing!
Members of critical sectors. Up til recently it was believed that hotels and resorts in Minnesota could only offer services to those who are traveling in certain sectors as essential workers. From now on, there is no required screening or anything needed to be asked as to why someone is reserving a unit. This is the governors way of saying that you are allowed to travel for fun and leisure. We have been specifically told that while governments all over the country are discouraging travel, we are welcome to accept all visitors and reservations as we feel comfortable. Business owners who aren’t comfortable with being open are encouraged to remain closed.
Communal areas are to be closed. Until things change we will have to adjust some parts of the resort. We will keep the game room closed until further notice. We will not be hosting a weekly barbecue this summer as we have in past years. The lodge will be open, but we will discourage loitering. And sorry, we can’t allow you to play pool or watch tv in the lodge. We are being told that any building or activity that is open to public use needs to be closed. Fish cleaning houses, laundry facilities and docks are specifically designated as areas that can remain open at resorts, but adjustments to group use may be needed. We are still working out some ideas for this. We’ve talked about sign up times for the fish house. We’re not sure yet how to best address this one. We know there are some groups that spend more time in the fish house than others. We need to be considerate of others this year and limit the time we are in the fish house cleaning fish if others have fish to clean. We are trying to keep from having to close the fish house entirely. And no, we can’t allow you clean fish in the cabins. That makes a huge mess and leaves a bad smell in them. Of course, those of you who practice catch and release fishing won’t have any issues with any adjustments made in the fish cleaning house. I would hope that a trip here is more about the time spent on the lake with those we care about and less about how many fish are killed.
Equipment for general use. We are not able to put out kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards until further notice. You can use the basketball court, but you will need to bring your own ball. We will put out the corn hole boards, but you’ll need to bring your own bags. I know this sounds ticky tacky, we are sorry, we are simply trying to find a way through these difficult times.
Cleaning Standards. Our standard cleaning practice won’t change. We already adhere to a very high standard of cleanliness for the cabins. There is talk of the state making some changes to how bedding is cleaned at this time. We may have to ask you to bring your own bedding or a sleeping bag. Sorry for any hassle that creates. Hopefully this part is short lived. If you are coming in May, you should probably plan on bringing bedding with you. We will contact you directly if this affects you.
Social Distancing. Our cabins are pretty spaced out. When you are on the lake, don’t fish right next to someone. Please continue to practice good hygiene.
Food service. We don’t serve hot food, so this isn’t a problem for us. We will still have frozen pizzas for sale in the store as a grocery item (ice cream too!).
Not only do we need to operate the resort to make ends meet financially, we believe the general public benefits from getting outside and away from screens. Not only do we want to survive, we’d like to think we can help people’s stress. We are hoping that if we all practice good judgement and work within the constraints given we can not just survive the current pandemic, but still enjoy life. We hope you are all excited to spend some time at the lake this summer. To get outside and breathe good, clean fresh air. Please do all you can to not bring COVID 19 up here. Please use good judgement. Please be patient with those of us who are having to make adjustments to standard practices. If you are upset about limited use of the fish house or the kayaks not being out, please know we are simply doing what we need to at this time to operate. And remember, you can still be with those you care about, you can still fish, you can still enjoy the sunshine, you can still swim in the lake, you can still star gaze, you can still go hiking, you can still pick berries, you can still enjoy a great vacation at a small northern Minnesota resort! We are hoping that if we all practice good judgement and work within the constraints given we won’t only survive the current pandemic, but still enjoy life.
We are excited to see everyone. Thank you to everyone who hasn’t cancelled their vacation with us. We sincerely appreciate your patience. We know you want to get away from your stresses. And we think you will need a great vacation this year. Many of you are almost family to us, and we have missed you. And we are so grateful that our prayers, and yours, have been heard and there is a way for us to be open this summer. 16 days til we are open!