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After years of trying to sell its three tourism properties in the province, the Nova Scotia government announced on Tuesday it had sold its last resort.
The sale of Liscombe Lodge, arguably the least well known of the government-owned “signature resorts” even though it is only about a 2.5-hour drive from urban Halifax on the Eastern Shore in Guysborough County, was confirmed in a news release.
The government sold Keltic Lodge in Ingonish, Victoria County in 2015, and just this past December sold the Digby Pines. Now, despite the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism sector, the province found a buyer for its remaining tourism property.
In the release, Geoff MacLellan, the minister of business, said that Hearthstone Hospitality Ltd. of Dartmouth paid $450,000 for the Liscombe Lodge Resort and Conference Centre. The sale officially closed on Saturday.
According to a government representative, Hearthstone Hospitality was considered the only viable bidder for the property. In fact, Mike Melenchuk, the owner of Hearthstone Hospitality, had been managing the Liscombe property since early July.
I was unable to reach Melenchuk for comment but I was informed by someone at the Hearthstone in Dartmouth that Melenchuk sold the Hearthstone hotels in Port Hastings, Sydney and Dartmouth to an investment group from India last November.
Although he no longer owns the three original Hearthstone hotels in Nova Scotia, I was told Melenchuk continues to operate his business under the Hearthstone Hospitality Group name.
The government release indicated that Melenchuk has promised to invest $1 million in upgrades and will offer jobs to all current employees.
U.S.-based New Castle Hotels and Resorts had managed the Digby Pines and Liscombe Lodge on behalf of the province since 2002. Unrelated to the management or sale of the provincially owned resorts, New Castle continues to manage the Westin Nova Scotia Hotel in Halifax.
Halifax developer Basim Halef, owner of Banc Properties, brought together a consortium to acquire the 90-year-old Digby Pines from the provincial government for $1 million. Government agreed to provide a $1-million credit for renovations and covered about $500,000 in closing costs.
Halef is the majority partner, with Glenn Squires, CEO of Pacrim Hospitality, the president of the numbered company that acquired the Digby property. Bear River First Nation is also part of the ownership team.
Details of the ownership structure of Hearthstone Hospitality Group have not been revealed, although it is described as a partnership on the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies.
It has been previously reported by the CBC that it cost the province $500,000 annually to keep Liscombe Lodge operating. The lodge employs nearly 300 seasonal workers.