After more than two chaotic weeks of lodging evacuees and firefighters, hotels in Napa and Sonoma counties are edging toward business as usual. Hotel construction projects that have been delayed are also getting back on track again.
Shortly after fires began, evacuees flooded into North Bay hotels, which also provided lodging for firefighters.
Steve Jung, general manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sonoma Wine Country in Rohnert Park, has spoken with managers of other hotels in the area, many affected by the fires.
“Hotels have a similar story,” he said of the rush for crisis housing. Donations poured in to help with lodging and other needs, but some evacuees paid for their own rooms.
The Red Cross set up in the banquet rooms at the DoubleTree. The hotel took in $500,000 in donations and was turned into a one-stop place for fire victims to obtain clothing, water, toiletries and even chair massages.
Downtown Napa was not in the path of the fires. At Napa River Inn on Main Street, most evacuees stayed for free, said Sara Brooks, general manager.
The inn typically runs at 90 percent occupancy in October, and although there will be short-term losses, Brooks is confident November and December will be fine as tourists return.
“There were definitely cancellations due to air quality and uncertainty,” she said. “In Napa, small, independent hotels have a real connection with their guests. People were calling just to ask if everyone is OK.”
Also in downtown Napa, the much-anticipated 183-room Archer Hotel was set to open in mid-October after delays due to heavy rains last winter. The opening has now been pushed back to December.
“Final building inspections by local and state authorities have been postponed, understandably, so that those critical resources can direct their attention to the priorities at hand — and to protect the health and safety of all those involved,” a company spokesperson said.
North of Napa, the town of Calistoga was evacuated for five days, which caused delays in construction of a 90-room hotel and resort managed by the Four Seasons. Another 110-room resort on the other side of town, managed by Rosewood Hotel Group, is slated to open in 2018.
3,450 NEW ROOMS
More than a dozen hotel projects are in various stages of development in Napa County that could bring at least 1,700 new hotel rooms to the county in the next few years, according to city planners.
That’s on top of 5,146 rooms at 131 existing properties, according to Visit Napa Valley, which promotes the county’s tourism.
In Sonoma County, there are 30 lodging-property applications at various stages in the approval process. When completed, those projects could add 1,750 rooms to the existing inventory of about 6,600 rooms, according to city planners.
Lodging projects have been adding retail and restaurant options to give visitors more things to do, more to buy and reasons to stay longer.
The roughly $200 million, 325,000-square-foot First Street Napa project, which includes the Archer, will encompass 45 shops and restaurants, and 30,000 square feet of office space.
“We have three blocks of mixed-use including 110,000 square feet of retail, which is pretty huge by Napa standards. We’re trying to create more of a reason to come for the day. Grab lunch, go shopping, have a little wine and be home for dinner,” said Todd Zapolski, managing member of Zapolski Real Estate, which owns the property.
More business coverage of the North Bay fires: nbbj.news/2017fires