PORT HASTINGS, NS — Two major motels near the Cape Breton side of the Canso Causeway that have been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic plan to reopen in 2023, according to the owner of the motels.
James Cha, owner of the Skye Lodge on Highway 4 in Port Hastings and what was previously known as the Causeway Inn, which overlooks the highway roundabout, told the Cape Breton Post he was considering next May as a possible reopening date for both motels.
Cha first purchased the two properties in 1999 and said largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic he was forced to close both operations in January 2021.
“Few visits and few people stopped. It was costing us too much money to keep them open. So we had no choice but to close,” said Cha, who is based in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“But next year we will open.”
According to Expedia.ca, Skye Lodge has 49 rooms spread over two floors, featuring one double bed, one queen-size bed, or two double beds, as well as an on-site restaurant.
The Causeway Inn comprises 69 motel units, also on two levels, offering double beds, two queen beds or king-size beds. The motel had changed names over the years, including Thriftlodge, Keddy’s Motor Inn, and Shieling Motor Hotel.
INTEGRATED SINCE CLOSURE
None of the facilities appear to have been impacted since the 2021 closure. Phone numbers for the old facilities remained recorded at the entrance to each motel.
“We will have to do a lot of maintenance in the bedrooms,” Cha said. “We will change the tiles and do the necessary painting.”
Skye Lodge was first built in 1962, while the Causeway Inn was built in 1970 and opened two years later.
Billy Joe MacLean, former mayor of Port Hawkesbury and one of the original owners of what was long ago the Shieling Motor Hotel, said that with the tourist season in full bloom and months after COVID- 19, it has become aware of solid business for Port Hawkesbury current accommodations lately.
‘FULLY RENOVATED AND REFURBISHED’
If the Skye Lodge and Causeway Inn had remained operational, “I’m sure they would have been 75 or 80 per cent full,” said MacLean, now 86. if they had been opened, and what would be the cost (to keep them open).
“These two places, if and when they open, should be completely renovated and revamped. The man who now owns the two motels, he worked hard to keep them alive. But the COVID pandemic just took a toll on his business.
MacLean said he sometimes feels a hint of nostalgia as he walks past his old lodging ground.
“At the time, we were doing about 65% business. We weren’t losing money,” MacLean said.
The motel, however, ensured some political controversy. “We were fine, then my good friends in the government decided to put a guardrail on my driveway to the roadway,” he said. “People would stop, look at us, then continue.”
Stories have also surfaced of the accumulation of debt loads and loans held before ownership of the motel changed hands in the mid-1980s when it became Keddy’s Motor Inn. “But that’s another story for another day,” MacLean said.
Ignoring the reopening
Before the pandemic took hold, Destination Cape Breton had plugged both Skye Lodge and the previous incarnation of the Causeway Inn, Thriftlodge (a brand of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts) onto its website.
“They’re listed there, but that’s about it,” said Destination Cape Breton CEO Terry Smith, who along with the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce said he was unaware that the owner of the two motels was considering restarting businesses.
“But what we’ve heard from other operators is that they’re really busy this year,” he said. “And for most of the summer it was very difficult to find a room anywhere.”
– Ian Nathanson is a multimedia journalist at the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_Ian.