Merchants React To Berlin Hotel Closure

BERLIN – The closure of Berlin’s iconic Atlantic Hotel and Solstice, the associated restaurant, should be temporary and should not affect other town businesses too strongly, locals predicted this week in the wake of the announcement.

Few were surprised at the closure. Like many small towns, bad news travels fast in the town of Berlin and speculation is a favorite sport.

“There was a rumor that it was going to happen,” said Treasure Chest owner Terri Sexton.

“The rumors have been plentiful for two months,” said Michael Day, coordinator of Berlin’s Main Street program, which will reportedly hold a meeting next week to discuss the closure’s impact on the town.

Bill Outten of A Step Above gallery and Town Center Antiques said the announcement seemed to come suddenly, although he knew the hotel had been having some difficult economic times.

“It was kind of sudden. One day they were there and the next day I had a customer come in and tell me they were closed,” Frene said. “There were rumors, but there are always rumors.”

Business at other sites in Berlin, already at its slowest point of the year, should not see much of a hit from the closure, merchants predicted.

“I think it’s a really short-term inconvenience. I don’t think it’s going to be a big blow by any means,” said Day.

Victorian Charm owner Debbie Frene agreed, saying, “I think the retail here is strong enough. We have other restaurants and very good retail shops. It shouldn’t hurt us at all.”

However, Frene added, “If something’s in there, it definitely helps us.”

“It’s going to be a slight inconvenience for awhile and then it’ll come back,” Sexton said.

The closure would have had a stronger effect in the summer, she said, but now, during Berlin’s slow season, no one expects business to be strong.

The Atlantic Hotel is too valuable a property and landmark to sit empty for long, merchants agreed. Day predicted that the Atlantic Hotel would reopen in February or March.

“I do believe they’ll get something going relatively soon,” Outten said.  “That’s one of the hubs. It’s got to be kept going and operating.”

The hotel is owned by a partnership of local business people. At least two of the business owners were spotted on site yesterday.

“They’re not going to let it sit there,” Sexton said.

People agreed that the hotel and eatery needed to concentrate on local, year-round business as well as the tourist dollar.

“They should have a high-end menu as well as some other things so it’s not just a special occasion place,” Day said. “They need to keep their local base. The hotel had gotten a little pricey for people to go in there twice a week. I hope the new folks will have a little bit of everything for Berlin.”

“As long as there’s good food with reasonable prices, people will come,” said Frene.

Outten would like to see the hotel’s historic roots brought back to join the modern changes, with perhaps a piano bar approach and events such as sing-alongs.

The more customers the hotel and restaurant attract, the more business the rest of the town sees, Outten said.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Sexton said. “Good things are going to come out of this.”

Day predicted, “I think we’ll weather this fairly quickly and come out of this stronger and better.”

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