Thursday, December 12, 2013
BY LESLIE BRIDGERS
At 9 a.m., he got a call. The cruise ship tour of 150 canceled its reservation for two hours later. At 10:30 a.m., he got another call. The second seating wasn't coming in either.
Bar Harbor Lobster Bakes, a company whose business model relies on serving large groups of tourists coming through Acadia National Park, has lost more than 300 customers and thousands of dollars since the park closed Tuesday as a result of the federal government shutdown.
"I feel betrayed," said Mace, as he watered flowers outside his restaurant Wednesday. "I'm a loyal American who pays taxes and votes, and I feel like those guys aren't doing their jobs.
Bar Harbor Lobster Bakes is close to the Hulls Cove entrance to the park, but a couple miles from downtown. So tour groups -- Mace's only customers -- have no reason, or way, to get to the restaurant if they're not going to the park.
Other restaurants and shops along the main drag were still busy Wednesday, but employees said they feared what would happen if the park stayed closed and the bus tours and cruise ships stopped coming.
"That's going to absolutely crush the local economy here," said Andy Cough, owner of Acadia National Park Tours, which takes buses of people from the downtown through the park and back.
At this time of year -- what he called "a lot of people's gravy" -- his 44-passenger buses are always filled. More than 25 percent of his reservations have canceled since the shutdown, he said. The rest have opted to get on the bus for the tour around the rest of Mount Desert Island that he's offering instead.
But only a small cruise ship is coming in Thursday. There are 12 people total signed up for his two tours, and he expects half of them to cancel.
"I think what we're in for is really going to show," Cough said.
Charles Phippen, Bar Harbor's harbormaster, said an agent for the Holland American Line has indicated that if the park stays closed, its ships will reroute to Portland.
The Veendam, a 1,350-passenger ship, is scheduled to be in Bar Harbor on Friday and again on Sunday. The Eurodam, which holds more than 2,000 passengers, is supposed to arrive Saturday.
Phippen said 37 ships are scheduled to come in through the end of October, including several owned by Holland America.
That's what concerns Amanda Austin, the manager of Testa's Restaurant on Main Street. Austin keeps a calendar of the ships coming in and the number of passengers they carry in a red binder that she was holding Wednesday.
"It's how we decide how much staff we have working, how much lobster we order -- everything," she said.
The Bluenose Inn isn't as tied to the cruise ships, but it does depend on business from bus tours, which can fill up as many as half of the 97 rooms in the hotel, said general manager Jim Ash.
So far, no one has canceled a reservation.
"'So far' is the operative term," he said.
A handful of other customers, however, have canceled, Ash said. Another handful left early.
"If I seem bitter about it, I am," he said. "It's a disgrace that this has happened."
As visitors from Lancaster, Pa., boarded their Conestoga Tours bus after shopping downtown Wednesday afternoon, driver Eric Stein said they were upset they couldn't get into the park, which he said was half the attraction of Bar Harbor.
"You take half of it away, it doesn't make them all that happy," he said.
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