News Column

Bushkill Inn is getting new owners

August 14, 2014

By Wayne Witkowski, Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.



Aug. 14--The Bushkill Inn and Conference Center, which filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, is expected to change ownership by the end of the year.

General Manager Roger Taylor said he expects a major, unnamed real estate investor from the New York area with no prior experience in the hospitality business to submit a plan in two weeks to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Trenton, N.J., for approval. Taylor said the process would be completed in six months, around the amount of time that the inn would exit Chapter 11. "It's all moving along normally," he said.

"We've filed for financial reorganization to get out of bankruptcy because of an issue with one of the owners with another business under that owner that has had some financial issues," said Taylor, which he said led to a shortage of available capital.

He said two other entities expressed interest in ownership but the current owners were more familiar with this applicant. He said the current ownership of Isaac Greenwald of Greenwald Caterers of Lakewood, N.J., and Nchemya Leiman "has dissolved" and that the severance was "amiable."

"Chapter 11 was a way for us to seek a new owner and to reorganize the existing debt and to make sure the property stays operational in good upkeep," he said.

Taylor said it is unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, whi h closes the business and liquidates the inventory.

Bushkill Inn had a grand reopening in September 2012.

The 167-acre property on Bushkill Falls Road was formerly known as the Pocmont Resort. It closed in November 2009 and had been owned by the Artzt family for 63 years.

Once valued at $8.23 million, it was purchased for $2 million by a group of eight partners under the name Pocmont Properties LLC, the name under which Chapter 11 reorganization was filed after unpaid contractors filed with the courts to recover their payments and back taxes accrued.

Taylor said those debts are being paid off, as required under Chapter 11 for the business to continue and avoid Chapter 7 closure. But one of them -- Strausser's Nature's Helpers in East Stroudsburg -- was paid $29,500 but still has not received its $29,700 balance and it remains in litigation.

"Businesses understand the difficulties because they go through some things themselves and have been very supportive and accommodating," Taylor said.

The inn has 107 hotel and cabin rooms and is booked on weekends through August. Some 30 cabin rooms still need to be renovated, which Taylor said will be taken up by the new owner.

Bushkill Inn and Conference Center has a staff of more than 60, mostly from the Pike and Monroe counties vicinity.

The business outlook is brightening. After what Taylor called a "flat" winter season when severely inclement weather kept customers at home and "tremendously" spiked the inn's heating, energy and snow removal expenses and a "flat" July, Taylor said business picked up with 20 percent improvement in August from a year ago and a "very promising September" with 16 percent more business projected than in September 2013.

Unlike Fernwood Hotel and Conference Center a few miles south, which closed under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Taylor said at Bushkill Inn it's been "business as usual" as he and some key staff members indicated that business from regular customers has not dropped because of the bankruptcy filing. He said there was a "brief discussion" but there "are no plans at the moment" to offer timeshares.

But he said the new owner "will expand our sales force and define marketing strategy." He said the business plan would become "more family friendly" rather than appeal to affluent, upscale couples from the tri-state region.

"We are going from a shotgun approach to marketing to a pinpoint rifle approach to marketing. One that's very specific," Taylor said.

The hotel continues to have dining throughout the week, with the Lounge offering dinners seven nights a week and the Steakhouse open for dinner Friday and Saturday evenings. There is a breakfast buffet in the dining room and an a la carte breakfast at the Steakhouse based on occupancy.

There are indoor and outdoor pools, a spa by appointment only and on weekends, hiking trails, a lake with paddle boats as well as tennis, basketball and volleyball courts and a horseshoe pit. There is a Kids Camp offered to children of guests on weekends as well as a game room and Wii competition.

"We want to enhance the kids' games," Taylor said of the new ownership.

He said the inn would continue to host community events, most recently a successful wine and food pairing event for the Bushkill Emergency Corps that raised about $2,200 and will continue working with Bushkill Outreach nonprofit.

Taylor feels the selection of wines is a strength of the inn from his background as a corporate vice president for food and beverage at the well-regarded Columbia Sussex Corp. He has made excursions to France, Germany, Italy, Sicily and his native Australia to sample and bring back many wines.

Although one of the prior owners was a kosher caterer, Taylor insisted the inn is not a kosher hotel.

Unlike his prior experience, Taylor said the lightly traveled location makes this his "most difficult challenge."

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(c)2014 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.

Visit the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa. at http://www.poconorecord.com/

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Source: Pocono Record (Stroudsburg, PA)


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