Early this year, White Pines Resort stocked its gift shop, wine cellar and food freezers. A week later, it had to close to the COVID-19 pandemic.
White Pines Resort owner and concessionare Beth George announced Wednesday that she is filing for bankruptcy and closing after 31 years due to losses of revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resort operates seasonally and consists of a restaurant, dinner theater, cabins and a gift shop. The buildings that house the businesses are owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
George took to Facebook Wednesday afternoon with a video to make the announcement and say goodbye.
“I want to just tell you that I never thought I'd be saying these words,” George said. “For 31 years I've run that resort and put my heart and soul into it. I’m going to be one of the statistics that don't make it. I’m smart enough to know the numbers just won’t work to reopen.”
George, who grew up in Mt. Morris, said that the Governor's reopening plan that was unveiled last week was the “nail in the coffin” of her business. The plan says that gatherings of over 50 people may not be allowed until there is a COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to cabin rentals, White Pines Resort operates a restaurant in the historic lodge and also hosts weddings, Sunday buffets, graduation parties, retreats and a dinner theater. The business is based on volume, George said. It usually doesn’t generate a profit until May in a normal year.
The reopening plan also says restaurants like White Pines Resort's may have to reopen with limited capacities.
“How can opening 25 percent capacity as a restaurant make sense?” George said. “Nobody can make money doing that.”
The seasonal business has been closed since December. George has been residing in Costa Rica with her two children who also have tourism-based businesses there.
The Facebook video was commented on over 1,000 times and shared nearly 5,000 times as of late Wednesday afternoon. In it George said due to the restrictions, the earliest she could have reopened was next spring.
“What business could go 16 months without opening?” George said. “And the bills are still coming in. I saw the writing on the wall.”
George said the bankruptcy decision was made due to having to pay back creditors, such as couples that have put down wedding deposits.
White Pines will be hosting a going out of business at its gift shop sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 18-20.
“If you want something to remind you of White Pines, the hiking and campfires,” George said. “All that money is going to pay back the people who have supported White Pines.”