The opening of hotels is a bit of a sore spot with Woodstock town supervisor Bill McKenna, who recently implored governor Andrew Cuomo to stop or limit short-term rentals often listed on sites like Arbnb.
The number of active cases in Woodstock peaked at 31 and is now down to four, according to the latest information from Ulster County.
McKenna said it was perfectly fine for people from the city to come up as long as they are staying in place. Still, he respects hotel operators’ rights to open as that category of business was never made part of the state order. “I hope they’re advising their guests to practice social distancing and wear masks,” he said. “I appreciate that people want to get out, but they should have masks on.”
He noted a large number of people in town on a recent weekend without masks. “People have to realize if they’re not smart, we’re going to be right back where we started,” McKenna said.
Here’s a progress report about what’s been happening at six local lodging places that serve Woodstock-area visitors: Twin Gables, The Graham & Co., The Woodstock Inn at the Millstream, Woodstock Way, Hotel Dylan, and Selina..
It was shaping up to be a great first season for Azie and Travis Shelhorse, new owners of Twin Gables in Woodstock. Then the pandemic hit, and turned their plans and those of other hotel and bed-and-breakfast operators upside down.
The Shelhorses were hoping after six months of renovations they could welcome guests for the busy summer season. “We were hoping for the end of April or the beginning of May,” Azie Shelhorse said.
Hotels and guest houses like Twin Gables considered essential businesses, but many decided to play it safe and stay closed until they had plans in place to keep employees and guests safe. “We immediately closed and sent everyone home,” said Shelhorse, who had planned to spend the summer there. “But now we feel the only safe way to reopen is to just allow limited quarantine crews to rent the home in its entirety.” Plans are to reopen on June 20.
“We’re having to rethink everything.” That includes nixing the breakfast buffet and instead offering a selection of menus for restaurants in town that offer take-out service.
To cut down on people coming in and out, Twin Gables must be booked for a minimum four-day stay. The house will be fully sterilized between guests.
Plans are in the works to make sure staff has very limited interaction with guests. They are working on an app for check-in. The third floor, which was formerly attic storage space, was converted to an open meditation studio.
“We’re not offering daily housekeeping. Rather than do that, we’re just going to do the 24-hour sterilization in between,” said Azie. “We have boxes with hand sanitizer and masks.”
She feels that a lot of people are trying to escape the city and come and be more isolated.” Shelhorse seemed sympathetic to the concerns of some locals about an influx of people coming from the city. However, she understands people need an escape. “We don’t want to discourage people from coming, but we’re trying to keep them safe,” said Shelhorse.
She and her husband Travis live in New Jersey/
Twin Gables was open during the recent renovations, and Shelhorse believes this is the first extended time it has closed since 1926. It was shuttered for a week to install sprinklers, she said.
The Graham & Co.
Martin Torres and Joe DiThomas are going through a similar transformation at The Graham & Co., a 20-room hotel in Phoenicia. It officially reopened Memorial Day weekend, and bookings are limited to a few rooms at a time, said Torres. About 40 percent of the rooms are out of commission.
Even though he could probably sell out on a busy summer weekend, Torres is playing it safe with enhanced cleaning procedures. “We’re going into the rooms and spraying everything down,” Torres said. And by we, he means himself to start, so he can keep employees safe. “I don’t want them to do anything I wouldn’t do, so I’m going to go in and spray them down.”
Torres ordered two ultraviolet lights that will run in the rooms for 30 minutes to aid in the disinfecting process.
Initially, the Graham limited stays to at least five to seven days, but now is allowing for three-day weekends. “We’re putting buffers and the beginning and end of the stay,” he said, allowing for time to do deep cleaning.
Torres said he is part of a Facebook group of lodging operators who are trying to put egos aside and share ideas about what is working.
The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream reopened May 26 with limited occupancy. All rooms will be deeply cleaned and disinfected between stays, according to a message from innkeeper Karen Pignatero on the property’s website. The lobby is closed and check-in is done online. Guests will be provided with a list of restaurants in town offering takeout.
Woodstock Way, a series of cabins nestled among Tinker Street, Neher Street and Sgt. Richard Quinn Drive, opened the week of May 11. Several rooms are booked for the coming weekend, according to the booking section of the website.
The hotel touts a flexible reservation policy with no-charge cancellation up to 72 hours before the check-in date. Guests will use a mobile check-in a lockbox system to avoid contact, and housekeeping will only be done on request.
The 22-room Hotel Dylan, a boutique establishment in Glenford on the outskirts of Woodstock, reopened May 8 with limited bookings for Friday and Saturday nights. Rooms are taken out of service for 48 to72 hours between guests for deep cleaning.
Selina, an international hotel and resort operator, which recently purchased the former Woodstock Lodge, is applying for temporary approval to operate three cabins accommodating 18 adults. Selina’s attorney, Steven Barshov, said guests will have to complete a questionnaire and will not be allowed on the property if they exhibit symptoms or admit to having been in contact with someone who has Covid 19. The town board is considering a memorandum of agreement allowing them to operate on a limited basis.