Nfld. & Labrador

Shut down by COVID-19, this Bay Roberts hotel is offering isolation rooms — for free

It didn't seem right to leave a potential quarantine facility empty, hotel management said.

People quarantining in sheds, tents can now avail of hotel's empty rooms

The Bay Roberts Hotel, pummeled by cancellations last month, will reopen its doors to people needing a place to self-isolate. (Submitted by Deanne Mercer)

A global pandemic that forced hotels across the island to shut their doors has one business in Bay Roberts finding a novel use for their now-vacant units.

The 26-room Bay Roberts Hotel — which stopped receiving guests and laid off staff in mid-March amid a flood of coronavirus-related cancellations — is now preparing to welcome locals returning from work off the island who don't have a place to self-isolate.

They're also doing it for free.

"Everybody's under financial stress right now. We figured we'd do our part," said hotel manager Deanne Mercer.

At this time of year, hockey families and early tourists would normally fill up beds, Mercer explained. But the province's public health guidance to limit non-essential travel and activities last month was a death knell for a hotel already walloped by cancellations from guests fearing coronavirus transmission.

That week, Mercer recalled, "we had just called everybody, had a quick meeting, and said, 'You know, it is what it is. We have to shut down.'"

Mercer, like a broad swath of workers across the country, found her busy routine halted by lockdown measures.

Then owner Robert Rowe suggested putting the empty rooms to use.

"We just came to the conclusion that we wouldn't charge," Mercer said, after hearing about workers returning from Alberta and offshore Newfoundland isolating in sheds or tents. Asking for money didn't seem right, she said.

Deanne Mercer, right, and head cook Stephanie Kennedy, centre, are among staff volunteering to get their new guests settled and keep them fed during their quarantine. (Submitted by Deanne Mercer)

Since putting out the call for guests earlier this month, she's been fielding calls for placements.

There are only two rules: guests can't smoke inside and are confined to their rooms for a full 14 days once they arrive to reduce contact.

"You're not allowed out. Nobody is allowed in. So there's no housekeeping and that kind of stuff."

Mercer and other staff members, despite being laid off, are volunteering to co-ordinate arrivals. The hotel's chef will even prepare hot meals to leave outside the rooms.

"We can offer a nice hot shower, TV, Wi-Fi," Mercer said. "We just decided that it was the right thing to do."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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