Three of Santa Fe’s downtown hotels will reopen Wednesday after taking a wait-and-see approach through June in hopes of a slowdown in the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Instead, the city and state have seen a recent uptick in the number of new cases reported each day, and the pandemic has surged in neighboring Texas and Arizona — states with large shares of Santa Fe’s visitors.
Still, the Inn on the Alameda, Hotel St. Francis and Hotel Chimayó are sticking with the July 1 opening date they’ve had scheduled for a month or more.
Nine downtown hotels shut down in March after the pandemic reached the state and the tourism industry collapsed. Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi reopened May 1, followed May 14 by Hotel Santa Fe and May 20 by El Sendero Inn (formerly Garrett’s Desert Inn).
Local hotels operating in June have reported room occupancy rates on some days of 50 percent, the maximum set by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
La Fonda on the Plaza general manager Rik Blyth said demand for rooms has been higher than the 50 percent maximum occupancy rate.
“Weekend demand in particular could be as high as 75 percent,” Blyth said, adding La Fonda has had to refer callers to other local hotels.
Heritage Hotels & Resorts, which owns five downtown hotels, decided to open its two smallest properties first — Hotel St. Francis and Hotel Chimayó — to get a feel for the July market. Santa Fe’s largest hotel, Eldorado Hotel & Spa, also owned by Heritage, is scheduled for a July 15 reopening.
The Luminaria restaurant at Inn and Spa at Loretto is reopening Thursday, but the hotel, which is undergoing construction, will not reopen until August, said Molly Ryckman, vice president of marketing for Heritage.
Inn on the Alameda president and co-owner Joe Schepps said he began notifying employees a week or two ago that the hotel would reopen Wednesday, and 60 percent of them have come back.
“There’s just no way” not to reopen, despite the increase in coronavirus cases, Schepps said.
“We are not a bar in Texas,” he added. “We are not a beach in Florida. We are 10 buildings. We have a lot of distancing built into the property. We will not let people into the building without a mask.”
Downtown hotels, whether they shut down or stayed open during the pandemic, undertook what each called “deep cleanings.” Kitchens were cleared out, carpets shampooed and walls painted.
“We did maintenance and upgrades we never have time to do,” Schepps said. “We were stripping and sealing floors, sanding and oiling and restaining all the wood. The ceilings had never been oiled.”
Heritage kept some staff onboard through the closures to undertake cleaning at all five hotels.
“We deep-cleaned every crevice of the hotels,” Ryckman said.
Increased summer business, even with the ongoing pandemic, makes sense to Schepps.
“If you grew up in Texas, like I did, it’s miserable for 90 days,” Schepps said. “They are going to come here. Hopefully, people will wear masks.”