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Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant has been closed since Thanksgiving, when the previous management company opted not to renew its concessions contract with the National Park Service.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
The park service announced in February that it received several bids from companies interested in reopening Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant by summer.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
UPDATE April 18, 2013: Laura Nelson of the National Park Service sent an email Thursday morning that stated, "A company has been selected to operate the lodge for the next ten year contract. The offerors are being notified today and the Parkway hopes to issue a press release by the end of this week with more details and contact information."
A new management company for the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant could be named later this week, a regional tourism official said.
The venerable lodge located along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Bedford County has been closed since Thanksgiving, when the previous management company opted not to renew its concessions contract with the National Park Service. The lodge and restaurant, which was built in 1964, had been open year-round since 1977.
The park service announced in February that it received several bids from companies interested in re opening the lodge by summer.
Bedford tourism director Sergei Troubetzkoy said park service officials told him an announcement could come within days.
“I heard from the National Park Service on Monday that they might have an announcement by the end of the week,” Troubetzkoy said. “It looks like they have selected someone. I have my fingers crossed.”
Laura Nelson, a concessions specialist for the National Park Service who has been working on the contract for the Peaks of Otter, was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
The re opening of the lodge can come none too soon for Bedford County businesses that rely on tourism. Even though the lodge has been closed through the slow winter months, some businesses have noticed a downturn in visits .
“I have heard from some people that business is down,” Troubetzkoy said, “but most don’t have any actual figures. We haven’t entered the busy tourist season anyway.”
Danny Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Orchards and Peaks of Otter Winery in Thaxton, said his business has been off by nearly 40 percent since the lodge closed. He said that the lodge’s employees often referred guests to his winery and other attractions in the Bedford area.
“Now, we don’t get people off the parkway,” Johnson said. “There’s nobody to say, ‘Take a trip to Bedford.’”
Johnson said that for several months, there wasn’t even a sign at the lodge letting visitors know why it had closed or when it might re open. Johnson paid $65 to have a sign professionally made that now hangs on the locked gate, informing travelers that the lodge might open by summer and referring them to Bedford’s tourism website to find local attractions.
Compounding visitors’ confusion, Johnson said, was the fact that the lodge’s telephone number and answering machine were still working for a couple of months after the facility closed. The phone message had outdated information and did not mention that the place was closed. Johnson said many travelers had driven to the lodge only to find it closed.
The number has been disconnected.
“It’s been a headache,” Johnson said.