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State Grants Offer Some Relief For Struggling B-N Hotels

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Fairfield Inn & Suites in Bloomington received $150,000 in the second round of Illinois' Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program.

Bloomington-Normal hotels saw a $25 million drop in revenue over the last year with the pandemic drastically reducing travel.Ray Ceresa is president of the Bloomington-Normal Hotel and Lodging Association. He's also general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington. The hotel has had to cut nearly 40 jobs since the pandemic began.

Ceresa said it's been so bad, one of the best things to happen to local hotels recently was a big power outage.

“During the peak of all those repairs, there were up to 900 Ameren employees or contractors here in town that filled a lot of the hotels here in town, including mine which was a nice surprise,” Ceresa said.

Ceresa said hotel occupancy in Bloomington-Normal averaged 36% through the first 11 months of 2020, compared with 55% through the same period in 2019. Hotels cut their average nightly rate from $84 to $64 during the time.

“I am surprised, honestly, that more hotels haven’t gone out of business during this time because it’s been really, really tough,” he said.

Ceresa noted two local hotels temporarily closed during the pandemic--Country Inn and Suites and Chateau Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington, but have since reopened.

The lodging association estimates Bloomington-Normal hotels generated $32.2 million in revenue from occupancy fares from January to November 2020. That compares with $57.6 million during the same time in 2019. Ceresa noted that excludes the loss of food and beverage revenue from events.

Ceresa said hotel room bookings are down, along with conference and special events such as weddings that are big business for many hotels.

The drop in revenue also equates to a $3 million loss in occupancy tax money that goes to Bloomington, Normal and the state of Illinois, Ceresa noted.

He said convention business, a big draw for Bloomington-Normal, hasn't returned yet.

“A lot of them are waiting for a vaccine before they have their annual conference or annual event,” Ceresa said. “Some are doing virtual (events).”

State relief

Meanwhile, emergency pandemic funding from the state of Illinois may provide some relief.

Six Bloomington-Normal hotels have received money through the latest round of the state's Business Interruption Grants, or BIG, program.

Bloomington-Normal hotels were among the top recipients in McLean County. Five of the 14 businesses that received $100,000 or more are hotels.

The state awarded $275 million to 9,000 small businesses. More than 80 of them are in McLean County.

Top BIG Recipients in McLean County:

  • Fairfield Inn & Suites, Bloomington, $150,000
  • Four Seasons Health Club, Bloomington, $150,000
  • Hampton Inn & Suites, Normal, $150,000
  • Holiday Inn & Suites, Bloomington, $150,000
  • Medici, Normal, $150,000
  • Residence Inn, Bloomington, $150,000
  • Pizza Rach, Bloomington, $125,000
  • Fort Jesse Café, Normal, $120,000
  • Destihl Restaurant & Brew Works, Normal, $115,000
  • Fox & Hounds Day Spa, Bloomington, $115,000
  • Kelly’s On 66, Lexington, $115,000
  • Parke Regency Hotel, Bloomington, $115,000
  • Firehouse Pizza, Normal, $100,000
  • Game Time Gym II, Bloomington, $100,000

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.