Macon County has followed the lead of Swain and Jackson Counties in closing lodging accommodations (with a few work exceptions) to stop the spread of COVID19. BPR spoke with one of the biggest employers in Macon County about the decision.
The town of Highlands is known as a luxury vacation spot. The population more than doubles during the summer months when residents with 2nd homes in the region come into town.
That’s why the town’s new restrictions that any out-of-towners must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival are such a big deal. Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor explains:
“One of our concerns is that we have noticed in our downtown is that people seem to think they are on a holiday here and business is as usual. That’s not the case,” says Taylor. He explains they are also asking people to bring groceries and medicine for themselves.
Taylor says they are advising people not to come to the town and Highland’s police are stationed at checkpoints to let visitors know about the new restrictions.
“Yeah I just went through one. Just pulled through Highlands Falls Country Club on Highway 64.”
That’s Richard Delany president of Old Edwards Inn and Spa. The company has about six lodging locations in Highlands along with a golf course, restaurants and a wine garden - making it one of the biggest employers in the county with about 450 employees. Old Edwards announced it would be closing its doors on March 17th.
“We were just watching the way things were going and the governor's decisions and we decided it was prudent to close down as soon as we could and figure out where we would go from there," says Delany.
Delany says they are keeping their employees on the payroll and have committed to continue paying them for the foreseeable future. Some employees who were planning to come to the U.S. on international work visas have been unable to leave their countries.
“I think depending on how bad this is, if we reopen before the end of the year, then there will be a huge push for business up here and we will make the best of it," says Delany.
Delany is glad that the business is big enough to absorb this loss. Some smaller businesses in Highlands might not be as lucky.