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Hospitality in times of quarantine: How hotels are handling the pandemic

Some of the Lake Geneva area’s hotels and resorts stayed open after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

On May 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the state governor’s Safer-At-Home order. Walworth County declared that businesses can reopen and large gatherings are not prohibited.

Since March, when the order was made, many businesses closed.

But places like Maxwell Mansion, Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva, the Abbey Resort, and the Baker House adopted new practices to keep welcoming guests.

“We had to be quick to change our approach and show compassion and understanding as we entered uncharted territory,” said Shelley Strohm, director of marketing for Harbor Shores.

Under the order, hotels and resorts were deemed essential services.

However, according to Strohm, business plummeted at Harbor Shores. She said it was sad to see weddings being postponed and cancelled.

Those who needed long-term lodging, people in construction and others who just wanted a change of pace and scenery stayed at the hotel, she said.

Kim Yopp, general manager at Maxwell Mansion, said room occupancy dropped there at the onset of the pandemic, but things picked up due to the precautions being taken at the hotel.

Baker House saw a drop on traditionally bigger days like Easter and Mother’s Day.

But daily business “could have been much more catastrophic” than they have been, said Courtney Waller, general manager of the Baker House restaurant.

Baker House started something it never did previously — carryout service.

The Abbey also rolled out new takeout services, including a Dockside Pizza menu, and other practices to ensure guest safety.

“The resort has remained open during this crisis with elevated levels of guest room and public area cleanliness standards implemented,” stated the Abbey in a May 14 health and safety update on its website,

New practices

Harbor Shores — a five-story lakefront hotel with 108 guest rooms at 300 Wrigley Drive — is asking guests to check their temperature using infrared thermometers at check-in.

Strohm said people with a temperature of 100.9 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be asked to leave the property.

While their registration will be cancelled free of charge, the person will also receive a $25 voucher and not be charged.

Coronavirus-fighting systems were installed, she said, such as Nu Calgon coil cleaners and disinfectants are on all guest room heating and air conditioning units, and iWave air purifiers are in the HVAC units of the common area.

Located at 314 S. Wells St., Lake Geneva, Maxwell Mansion was built by Dr. Philip Maxwell in 1855.

The former summer dwelling is today a unique hotel with a carriage house/stable, themed upscale rooms and the Speakeasy and Apothecary cocktail bars.

“I think people are staying with us because we are unique and offer some fun, romantic options that are safe,” said Yopp.

She said Maxwell’s bars closed at the start of the pandemic, but the hotel stayed open.

Guests can reserve a spots available to one guest room at a time, where they can watch a movie.

During check-in, guests receive local dining menus. Maxwell also offers breakfast from Joni’s Diner, in Lake Geneva.

With a cleaning staff that has worked at the hotel many years, Maxwell has signs and staff encouraging guests to stay 6 feet away from each other. Masks are available for guests, said Yopp.

Originally built circa 1885 as a summer home for the widow of Racine mayor and state senator Robert Baker Hall, the Baker House has a layout conducive to COVID-19 precautions.

Located at 327 Wrigley Drive, next to Harbor Shores, the hotel/restaurant has five separate dining parlors, a lakefront garden and tables that have been 6 feet apart since Baker House opened, according to Waller.

The future

Waller predicted people will be nervous about large gatherings for some time.

“While I know that we will all be more aware of things like safety precautions and social distancing, I think that we will be able to make the experience at the Baker House feel almost normal,” she said.

Strohm expects Harbor Shores will see more people driving to stay at the hotel instead of flying.

She said as they heard of businesses reopening, they plan to reach out to local partners in an attempt to work together.

“The best we can do to get through this is work together with our community, be realistic with our expectations, stay compassionate to each personal and professional struggle we encounter, and stay as positive as possible,” said Strohm. “One day at a time, that is all we can do.”

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