Gloom hangs over the Semiahmoo Hotel, dark days on the horizon. In a steady downpour Wednesday, workers received word their jobs are checking out.
“There's lots of single moms and people you really worry about getting jobs,” said hotel bartender Beth Fitzgerald.
In the Canadian border town of Blaine, news of the hotel's looming closure dropped like a bomb.
“That first gut feeling is like, oh, my goodness, now what?” said Pam Christiansen, over lunch with her husband Bob at the Little Red Caboose Café.
Semiahmoo has been an economic engine for Whatcom County for a quarter century. Slow business over the past four years means it will soon be shuttered, and 200 jobs in this town of just 4,700 will disappear.
“To have that happen to them today, that's a tough one, yeah,” said Bob Christiansen. “It’s really going to hurt all around.”
In addition to tall those jobs, the City of Blaine is losing its top employer and taxpayer. The $368,000 hole in the city's budget for 2013 is now blown to more than $500,000.
At City Hall, plans are already under way to make the necessary cuts. Under consideration: elimination of the city's visitors bureau, festivals could be cancelled, the Fourth of July celebration shut down and up to six workers let go. Six workers would be equal to 10% of all city employees. That is what hurts city manager Gary Tomsic the most.
“These are friends. They have kids in college. It makes the decisions you have to make that much more personal, and hurtful,” said Tomsic.
Back at the Little Red Caboose, owner Dave Smith worries whether the loss of all those jobs and tourists will trickle down to him.
“They would come over here and eat. It was awesome,” he said. “We're gonna miss that. It’s very scary.”
The golf and country clubs at Semiahmoo will remain open, but the hotel will close December 1st. Workers will continue to receive pay and benefits through the end of the year.
A Semiahmoo spokesman saod there are some prospective buyers for the property, but nothing solid. Workers are hopeful for brighter days ahead, but Beth Fitzgerald sees none right now.
“It's sad,” she said. “It's like a funeral.”