Resorts ready to provide getaways

Communal amenities will be off limits

043020.PEJ.Resorts (1).JPG
Ahead of their coming opening May 8, Boyd Lodge's staff, incluiding Annette Newton, are workingt o provide spotless cabins for incoming guests. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

At a time when people are likely getting tired of seeing their own four walls at home, area resorts are chomping at the bit to help them get out.

“Resorts in Minnesota never closed,” Lynn Scharenbroich, owner of Black Pine Beach Resort, in Ideal Township, said in regard to the COVID-19 restrictions. “Many people aren't open certain parts of the year. We used to be open all year but we aren't any more, so reopening is what we're going to do. People who were open all year and wished to stay open all year were allowed to do so. The things they had to limit or eliminate were pools, game rooms and communal things. Except for those, they could have been open all the time.”

That's not to say some resorts didn't close voluntarily. Mike Schwieters, of Boyd Lodge in Crosslake, chose to close his doors from March 20 to May 8 out of caution when news of the pandemic hit. It was the first time the resort has been closed in 86 years.

“It was an extremely difficult decision for us,” Schwieters said. “We are open year-round. We probably got out ahead of it a little bit. I said, 'Let's be smart about what we're doing here.' There was so much uncertainty. Looking back 30 days it's amazing what's changed. We did make that decision and literally within days the governor put the shelter in place order in place. We were sure it was coming but wanted to be smart about it and keep our family and staff safe.”

Many people were unsure about Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's stay at home orders and how they related to resorts until April 21, when Walz officially announced that resorts had never been required to close, though they were asked to close communal amenities. The announcement included many guidelines on amenities and cleaning, which local resorts had already incorporated on their own.


“I know what we are required to do now, but I had already decided to close my community lodge for the summer and my community public bathrooms,” said Bret Jevning, owner of Cozy Bay Resort in Nisswa.

“As far as Tracy (Smith) cleaning, that's something she's always prided herself on, thoroughly cleaning cabins, so other than doing additional disinfecting,” said David Smith, owner of Green Roof Lodge on Woman Lake. “For her, cleaning isn't going to change a whole lot just because she's always done a good job in the past. It's not like she's ever decided she didn't need to do that.”

There are additional precautions in cleaning and preparing cabins. For example, some have adopted commercial disinfectants and some decorative features are being temporarily packed away.

“If it's not critical to the guest enjoyment, we probably don't need to have it in there,” said Schwieters

“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has a suggested list for cleaning,” Scharenbroich said. “I can't think of any cleaning list created that we haven't looked at. We sat down early on during this whole pandemic and looked at what we wanted to amend with cleaning. We are fastidious cleaners anyway and that is what we get complimented on a lot.”

Scharanbroich hired even more cleaning staff, purchased a UV disinfectant light for difficult to clean surfaces and bought a large sprayer for outdoor disinfecting.

In addition to closing communal spaces, resorts are making other adjustments, including for check ins and check outs. Scharenbroich has her guests scheduling check out times to avoid congregating in one space. Schwieters said he is considering ways to do inter-cabin activities with no contact using sound systems or Zoom or similar.

It's not all roses, however. Jevning estimated that uncertainty and other factors may have cost him $40,000 in revenue. Because resorts can only fill as many bookings as can fit in the cabins there, he said even if demand comes flooding back, they can't make back that revenue.


“People believe people are chomping at the bit to fill out our bookings and stuff, but I only have nine cabins and if they're full, I can't do more business than nine cabins,” Jevning said. “From January until now is when all these people would have been calling to fill those open spots, but nobody has been getting phone calls for booking. We're sitting with excess amounts of spaces open, but you can still only do so much.”

Jevning also pointed out that resorts operate in a way that they, and sometimes those they hire, don't qualify for some of the assistance options.

“Since most small resorts are sole proprietor, they might have one staff member, but most of their staff are subcontractors for cleaning and grounds maintenance and stuff like that,” Jevning said. “None of those small businesses really qualify for the relief packages that the government has said are to help small businesses. The resort industry in itself is a different animal to begin with and looked at differently.”

Then, of course, more cleaning means more time and money.

“Cleaning is obviously going to take longer and involve more time,” Schwieters said. “We haven't made the decision yet but we're talking about changing our week. Usually we go weekly in the summer, but now one of the ideas we're kicking around is maybe going to a six-day week to give our cleaning crew time to clean the cabin, get them stripped and get the laundry all done. Cost goes up and income goes down. That's not a good plan, but right now we're thinking how we salvage what we can while not losing sight of maintaining a safe environment.”

Many resorts are seeing cancellations or changes to reservations.

“We've had zero cancellations, but some folks who have moved to a later date for various reasons,” said Scharenbroich. “I have an older couple that have been coming for a long time. One of the two of them has a parent in the nursing home in Brainerd. They didn't know, if they came up on their typical June date, if that nursing home would be open for them to visit their mom.”

“We've been really, extremely fortunate,” Schwieters said. “We've been around 80-plus years and have guests I've literally known all my life. They've been extremely supportive. Some aren't making any changes. Some have elderly parents they are concerned for and they will postpone this year but keep their spot for next year. We've had some cancels as well, though cancels have definitely been the fewest.”


“We haven't had any cancellations as a result of COVID-19 and we haven't had any new reservations yet either,” Smith said. “I think people were kind of waiting to see what the state and president were going to do. I think people were waiting on that as far as new reservations.”

“I've had probably two dozen phone calls and the vast majority, maybe only six of those two dozen have said put them in next year because they aren't going to be able to come up this year,” Jevning said. “The rest of them have said they need a vacation.”

In spite of closing communal spaces, these resort owners say almost all their amenities are still available, often including beach space, cabin decks and boat rentals.

“Just communal property,“ Jevning said. “The beach and stuff like that, people can maintain social distancing.”

“For a smaller resort we don't get into big family groups until mid-June and it depends on what the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines are at that point,” Smith said. “We may have to keep our game room closed and close down our playground set, but outside of that I don't see that it will change how we interact with people a whole lot.”

“We have quite a large property with several miles of hiking trails in the woods where you can certainly get away from everybody on,” said Schwieters. “Then access to the lake is the biggest draw. People are antsy to get out on the water for an afternoon or so.”

“The only thing we know we must not have open yet is our game room,” Scharenbroich said. “That's the only thing off the table for now. All those amenities they have loved forever will still be available to them. They'll be available but sanitized and they will have hand sanitizing stations right there. You might call them new and improved. Probably the beach is what everyone dreams of when they come up. I assume that will still be busy.”

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at


Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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