Around 400 people were at Burke Mountain this Memorial Day Weekend celebrating the planned fall opening of the Burke Hotel and Conference Center.
Development for the hotel was indefinitely halted in December, but a court-appointed management company and local residents are coming together and saying the Burke Hotel will officially open in September.
New managers from Leisure Hotel and Resorts at the Burke Hotel have been going around the hallways and using the sides of cards, coins and their finger nails to scratch off the the tail of the "Q" on signs in the new Burke Hotel.
They call it “de-Qing the Burke"; the resort is reverting from the name Q Burke to its original name, Burke Mountain.
The Q stood for Ariel Quiros, the former owner of the property who added his initial to the ski resort's name, and whose son, Ary, ran the resort.
Now that the property has gone into receivership following federal fraud charges against the senior Quiros for allegedly misappropriating EB-5 funds, the community is erasing the Qs at the hotel and resort and wiping the slate clean for new management.
Siobhan Shufelt is the lodging manager of Burke Hotel. She'd been employed under Quiros, and she gets some catharsis in the de-Qing process. "I'm doing my best to make sure that we are moving forward in a way that is most positive for us and I feel like that's probably the direction we need to head at the moment," she said.
The Leisure Hotel and Resort managers, the company now in charge of the properties, have been living in the 116-suite hotel for the past six weeks preparing it for a Sept. 1 opening.
Although development on the hotel came to a halt in December, the Burke Hotel looks like it could be ready to open tomorrow. It has an arcade, and suite-style rooms stocked with skis and fully-functional kitchens.
Steve Scherer, the director of operations at Leisure Hotel and Resorts, says their new motto is “stronger than yesterday, don't quit, keep moving forward."
"That's what we're going to do here,” Scherer adds.
Walking through the empty halls of the Burke Hotel, Scherer says employment numbers will be back up to where they had been prior to Quiros' ownership, and possibly higher. He says getting the hotel up and running is important in many ways.
“It's an integral part of the region and the economy, it should have a great impact on it in terms of being an employer and improving the tax base obviously and getting people up here” Scherer says. “Not only people that stay here, but of course they'll be in the community also spending money at the general store and the gas station and at the tiki bar and the publick house, all those places down there.”
Up the hill past the hotel at the mid-Burke Lodge, Michael Sher, the founder of Friends Of Burke Mountain, a new nonprofit that works with the management company, agreed. He would know: He’s been working on development in the region since the mid 1980s.
“For every job we restore at the hotel and the mountain, three jobs are created in the community," Sher says. "For every dollar spent at the hotel and the mountain, $3 is spent in the economy in the Northeast Kingdom.”
Friends Of Burke Mountain co-sponsored a weekend party inviting members of the community to the mountain to celebrate new beginnings. The celebration was held at the mid-Burke lodge. Beer was flowing and the barbeque grill was going. The event drew fans who have stuck with the resort through good times and bad.
Bob Bisson is one of them. He's skied the mountain for years, and has high hopes for a Q-less Burke. "We were never fans of the Q from the beginning," he said. "We're kind of happy. The family is back together. We're used to people taking over, it happens every few years here. So hopefully now that the hotel is here, it gets some business, gets some money flowing in here and we'll do alright."
Jason Lefebvre, wearing his Burke mountain baseball hat, also joined the festivities.
Lefebrve is the mountain operations manager. He has worked at the mountain for 18 years, but left last October after feeling dissatisfied with Quiros' managerial style. But when Leisure Hotels and Resorts asked him back, he agreed.
He believes that this is a fresh start for him as well as the community.
“I think it brought the community back into it. There's more passion again. This really stimulated everyone in the area, as you can see,” he said. “Something good comes out of everything and there are some good things that came out of this previous ownership. We have a hotel on the mountain that we need to take care of, that we needed, and that's going to help us.”
The federal receiver is getting the hotel ready to be sold. Meanwhile, the management company is taking reservations for the fall.