Saint Andrews businesses anxious for Algonquin to reopen

The Algonquin Hotel in Saint Andrews just closed its doors earlier this week for renovations and some business owners in the town are already anxiously awaiting its reopening next year.

Closed for renovations until June

The Algonquin Hotel in Saint Andrews just closed its doors earlier this week for renovations and some business owners in the town are already anxiously awaiting its reopening next year.

"Well, we're going to budget very carefully," said Matthew Honey, owner of the coffee shop, Honey Beans.

It was already a difficult season with only a fraction of the iconic hotel's rooms open during the $20-million renovation project, he said. The resort left only 51 rooms open, meaning fewer hotel guests and employees in the seaside town.

Now, with the historic hotel shut down completely, Honey said he'll have to plan accordingly.

"We'll have to sort of play things by ear as things are going along," he said.

"Being a smaller business, we're able to sort of change on the fly a little bit easier and adjust some things, tweak some things. But, ultimately looking forward to a much better summer next year when they open back up."

Boosts business for some

Some businesses, such as the Kennedy Inn, have benefitted from the Algonquin shut down.

"I think we're at the right place at the right time," said Maurice Basque, the inn's front of house supervisor.

"Those who didn't cancel their weddings or conventions funneled into the rest of the rooms that were available here in town," he said.

"Now that the hotel is closing completely, with the promise of opening again in June, we expect to see more of that funneling happen."

Basque hopes that when the Algonquin reopens in the summer of 2013, it will bring more tourism to the town.

"So the cooks, the bartenders, the waiters, the shop owners, the markets that happen every week, should all see a big increase come the turn of the summer."

A spokesperson for the hotel says the work is on schedule and on budget.

In March the New Brunswick government sold the Algonquin Hotel to New Castle Hotels and Resorts and Southwest Properties and provided a $21-million repayable loan to the companies.

As part of the deal, New Castle Hotels and Resorts and Southwest Properties are to ante up $4 million in contributions and incentives. New Castle Hotels and Resorts is responsible for six hotel properties in Atlantic Canada.

When it opens its doors again, the Algonquin will be a part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, a brand of luxury hotels.

The Tudor-style Algonquin hotel was built in 1889 by the St. Andrews Land Co. The hotel was once owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Co.

The provincial government took it over in 1971 and began searching for a new owner last year when its contract with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts expired.

The hotel and golf course lost almost $2 million in 2009.

It employs about 250 people during the peak season.