N.S. government sells Liscombe Lodge, the last of its provincial resorts
'Some people say I'm crazy,' new owner says
Nova Scotia taxpayers are officially out of the business of running resorts, now that a sale has officially gone through to transfer Liscombe Lodge to a private businessman.
In exchange for $450,000 and a promise to invest $1 million renovating and upgrading the money-losing resort on the Eastern Shore, Mike Melenchuk took over ownership of the money-losing operation on Saturday.
"Some people say I'm crazy," said Melenchuk. "I see potential. I think I can turn it around."
Melenchuk used to own hotels in Dartmouth, Port Hawkesbury and Sydney under the Hearthstone Hospitality banner. Although he's since sold all three properties, he retains the Hearthstone name and is continuing to run them under a franchise agreement with the new owner.
Liscombe Lodge will retain its name but it will be marketed as a Hearthstone property.
Last year, the province sold the Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa to Halifax business owners Besim Halef and Glenn Squires and the Bear River First Nation for $1 million, but the government agreed to provide a $1-million credit for needed upgrades.
Lodge has 'a tremendous amount of potential,' new owner says
Melenchuk bought Liscombe because he said it has untapped potential. He said he plans to bring the property "up to a resort level."
"I just believe that there's a tremendous amount of potential in that property and I think it's been very underdeveloped. It's very under-advertised and marketed," said Melenchuk.
"[I] want to expand to it. Expand the number of rooms, expand the trails, expand the facility so that it becomes a full lodge resort."
Under the agreement reached earlier this summer, Melenchuk promises to continue to run the lodge as a tourist accommodation until the end of 2022. He can do whatever he wants with the property after that.
Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said the new owner has also agreed to keep paying staff what they are currently earning.
He is not concerned about the 2022 sunset clause.
"The reality is that it'll operate in perpetuity," MacLellan said. "I mean, Hearthstone is taking it for the long term so we're comfortable with that."
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