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Some seasonal stops in P.E.I. stay shuttered this summer

Brad Clark, left, and Myles Clark check on Clark's Sunny Isle Motel July 5. The summer of 2020 will be the first in 57 years that the motel has not opened.
Brad Clark, left, and Myles Clark check on Clark's Sunny Isle Motel July 5. The summer of 2020 will be the first in 57 years that the motel has not opened. - Alison Jenkins/Local journalism initiative reporter
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

For the first time in almost 60 years, Clark’s Sunny Isle Motel in Summerside will not be welcoming summer visitors through its doors.

Operated by Myles Clark and opened 57 years ago by Myles’ dad, Brad Clark, and his wife early in their 60-year marriage, the motel expanded from four rooms to the current 21. But they’ll all be empty this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s certainly different,” said Brad as he looked around his quiet property.

Many stalwart seasonal operators across the province have been forced to face up to the different realities of the 2020 summer and make the decision to stay closed.

The Starlite Diner in Summerside, as well as The Landmark Oyster House in Victoria-by-the-Sea, decided to forfeit uncertain rewards in light of the risks.

The Starlite Diner, known for its 1950s decor and table-top jukeboxes, posted to social media on June 29 that it will reopen in February 2021.

“We have made this decision after a lot of thought and feel like it is best,” said the post.

The Landmark Oyster House, formerly the Landmark Cafe, was purchased and re-christened by Greg and Marly Anderson just last year. The cozy, 150-year-old building has housed a restaurant for the last 30 years.

However, on June 10, the Andersons announced that the space was a bit too cozy to operate safely.

“We have had to make, we hope, the most challenging business decision of our many, many more years with our lovely Landmark,” said their social media post.

"Due to our small, quaint space (that) we all love, we are unable to abide safely, we feel, to the social distancing measures in place. We will not be opening this season.”

The decision by these long-established businesses to stay closed is not always expected by customers.

Just the day before being interviewed by The Guardian, Brad Clark took a call from a long-time regular guest. The mostly-retired innkeeper had to explain they weren’t opening and helped the man find another spot to stay.

However, even with the travel bubble, there haven’t been many of those calls, said his son, Myles.

Factored in with the uncertain number of guests was the cost of opening up the motel for the summer. As a seasonal business, all the plumbing is still winterized and the electricity is turned off.

Getting going for the year means more than $2,500 in monthly bills – even if no one comes to stay. Then Myles considered the health risks to his staff, many of whom are loyal, older workers.

Now, with the new cluster of cases announced July 5, Myles fears the borders could close again suddenly.

As a mature business, Myles said he’s in a better position to stay closed than a newer business. Also, keeping his rooms off the market may help other lodgings.

“It’s a tough situation for many businesses,” said Myles. “Everybody thinks it’s going to go away … but there’s no guarantee of a vaccine anytime soon.

“On the flip side, the economy can’t stay shuttered forever."

Alison Jenkins is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government. Have a news tip in western P.E.I.? Tell me about it! 902-303-2690 (c) or alison.jenkins@journalpioneer.com

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