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Coronavirus keeping tourists away from Geneva-On-The-Lake hotels, wineries

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Posted at 6:33 AM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 20:08:34-04

GENEVA, Ohio — The streets through Geneva-On-The-Lake in the first few weeks of April normally aren’t as busy as they are in the middle of the summer. Right now, the difference is no one knows when the tourists will return because of the coronavirus.

“We have a restaurant on our property, but not only that, everyone comes to our area to go to the wineries and restaurants,” said The Lakehouse Inn’s Andrea Bushweiler. “That’s the really big attraction, especially this time of year.”

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The Lakehouse Inn sits empty while customers are kept away because of the coronavirus.

That’s why The Lakehouse Inn closed its doors soon after Governor DeWine’s Stay at Home order.

“It's been difficult at one level because obviously sales are down significantly, probably 50% or more,” said Ohio Wine Producers Association Executive Director Donniella Winchell.

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For a community that depends on seasonal entertainment and tourism, every day that the Stay at Home order remains makes it harder for businesses to make ends meet.

So, the association’s members have had to get creative, allowing orders to be picked up at the curb and working out a way to potentially ship order to customers who, Winchell says, are ordering wine by the case.

“The wineries have seen an incredible cadre of support from their loyal customers,” said Winchell.

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The empty Lakehouse Inn parking lot would usually have cars for tourists checking out the nearby wineries even during in March.

The ripple effects are felt back at The Lakehouse Inn.

“So we knew if people couldn’t go to the wineries and go and do tastings, there wasn’t going to be a lot of reason to come to the area,” said Bushweiler.

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The Lakehouse Inn is using the down time to do renovations while customers are away.

Experts say Ohio has 33,000 similar small hospitality businesses that are all trying to figure out how to get through the outbreak while occupancy rates dip into the single digits in the hotels that are still open.

“Every week we’re just canceling reservations out for the next couple of weeks,” said Bushweiler.

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Andrea hopes that gift cards will bring customers back once the coronavirus passes.

The Lakehouse Inn is offering gift card to customers who live nearby and could potentially come back later, but is willing to give full refunds to would-be visitors from farther away who have had to cancel their trip completely.

The concern is that once the outbreak has passed and it’s safe to travel again, will customers be able to.

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“It’s just, are people going to have the money to travel,” said Bushweiler.

Bushweiler says if The Lakehouse Inn can start welcoming customers back by Memorial Day, May 25, they can hope to salvage the summer vacation season.