Semiahmoo shutdown announced, 200 lose jobs

Published on Thu, Nov 1, 2012 by Brandy Kiger

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Semiahmoo Resort has announced the closure of their hotel and resort. 

The hotel will close on December 1, and 200 employees will be laid off. In a press release, Semiahmoo Resort Company, LLC attributed the closure to the recession and their continued inability to sell the resort. 

An earlier sale planned in 2010 fell through when the buyer could not arrange financing.

The company’s two award-winning golf courses, Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club and Loomis Trail Golf Club will remain open
 and continue operations under the Semiahmoo Resort Company, LLC.

Financial conditions of one of the Semiahmoo Resort Company, LLC members, Trillium Corporation and the bankruptcy case of David Syre have also contributed to the financial downturn of the resort complex.

The resort company had used the hotel as part of the collateral to secure loans from the now-closed Horizon Bank. Washington Federal Savings took over those loans after state and federal bank regulators shut down Horizon.

Syre is the Bellingham developer who spearheaded the resort and its surrounding development in the 1980s. The hotel first opened for business in 1987.

“We have done everything possible to maintain the hotel operation,” a spokesperson said. “But, like many similar resort properties, the hotel cannot continue to operate.” 

Blaine city councilmember Ken Oplinger was concerned about the impact the closure would have on the local economy and city operations. “It is very unfortunate for a community as small as ours to lose an employer like this,” noting that the resort is one of the largest employers in Blaine. 

The closure will have far-reaching effects for the city of Blaine. Much of the city’s budget comes from revenue generated by the resort from property taxes and hotel/motel taxes. “It’s a real problem for the city of Blaine. [Semiahmoo] provides the vast majority of our hotel/motel tax revenue and they are one of the largest property tax payers in the area… It’s somewhere in the 90% range. We’re already looking at a budget that’s already down from last year, and this is not going to help matters,” Oplinger said.

He pointed out that the hotel/motel tax alone brought in around $100,000 each year. The property and sales tax is even more. The loss of revenue means council members will have to take a hard look at the commitments they’ve made with their budget for the upcoming year. “It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars we’re looking at,” Oplinger said. “That’s a significant part of our budget. There’s a lot of different organizations that we had recommended giving money to, things like the jazz festival, and the chamber … now, we don’t have an income source to meet those obligations.” 

He said staff had met shortly after the news broke to discuss the turn of events. “This is a pretty good size business with well-paid employees. It’s going to be a real problem. And it’s going to be a real problem for the economy as well. There’s a lot of people who lost their jobs.” 

Employees were blindsided by the news. Wendy LeBlanc, a Semiahmoo employee, had been out doing sales for the resort on Tuesday and returned to the news. “It was a big shock. We all kind of felt like something was going on but we all thought that the hotel was going to be sold. That was the gossip and rumor around the resort,” employee Wendy LeBlanc said.

“All we know is what is in the paper, that the resort is closing on December 1 and we’ll be paid through the end of December. Right now, we just all want to band together. We’re a big family here and are focusing on supporting each other,” she said. “I was definitely in denial yesterday. It’s hard for sure.”

Semiahmoo will continue to pay its employees full wages and benefits through December 31, as required by state law. A meeting was held Wednesday afternoon so management could brief the employees on the situation. 

“It’s not a happy set of circumstances, but it just has to be,” Harry Chesnin, spokesman for the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe said. Trillium, Syre’s company, sold a majority ownership share to the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe in 2003. Chesnin said they are still intending to sell the property.

Semiahmoo Resort is located on the end of Semiahmoo Spit, a narrow stretch of land on the west side of Drayton Harbor. It is one of the largest resorts in the state with 200 guest rooms and suites.